The Debut Club: An interview with Stephanie Scott, author of ALTERATIONS

Swanky Seventeen Rebecca Barrow recently interviewed Stephanie Scott, author of the YA contemporary novel Alterations, published by Bloomsbury Spark on December 6, 2016.

About the Author

Stephanie Scott

Stephanie Scott writes Young Adult stories about teens who put their passions first. She enjoys dance fitness and cat memes, and Pinterest is driving her broke. Born and raised in Kalamazoo where there are no zoos, she’s a Midwest girl at heart. She now lives outside of Chicago with her tech-of-all-trades husband. You can find her chatting about TV and all things books on Twitter and Instagram, and online at stephaniescott.net. Alterations is her first book.

 

 

 About Alterations

steph scott alterations coverIf anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they’d think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn’t know that all the plans she’s made for them are just dreams, and that she’s the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family.

When Amelia’s abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can’t imagine leaving Miami–and Ethan–for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan’s awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app.

As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The “new and improved” Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she’d have to make.

Alterations is available in ebook format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

The Interview

Rebecca: Alterations is loosely based on the Audrey Hepburn film Sabrina.  What made you decide to use a film as your inspiration, and how much did you play with the plot?

Stephanie: Great question! I’ve always loved the movie starting with the 1990s version with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond. The Audrey Hepburn original has incredible fashion but some real cringe-worthy moments for a modern audience. When I was looking for my next project, I believe the idea I stumbled into an online conversation about which classic movies would make good book adaptations. While writing, I got hung up at times trying to mirror elements of the original story. What I ended up focusing on were the elements that make the movie appealing–the romance, the idea of reinvention, and a glamorous world for someone not used to glamour. I also added in a heavy dose of my own interests in reality shows, Project Runway, and Instagram.

Rebecca: What do you love about writing for teen readers?

Stephanie: The enthusiasm! I’ve gone to lots of reader events and book signings and that’s my favorite part–seeing readers get excited about stories and characters. The art and creativity that comes from book fandoms is also a lot of fun. I have favorites tagged on Etsy and sites like Society6 of book merch created by fans.

 Rebecca: I know you’re a big proponent of Instagram for authors (your feed is excellent and so pretty!) – why do you love it so much? And can you give us one tip for getting started on IG?

Stephanie: Thanks! It’s been a year since I discovered Instagram as more than a place to dump random pictures with some funky filters. I found the lively bookstagrammer community and started following accounts. On breaks at work I’d scroll through pretty book pictures for five or ten minutes at a time. I joined a monthly photo prompt challenge and didn’t miss a day last December, so the practice helped me get used to using it. Even Christmas Day I arranged my aunt’s holiday cookbooks and some cookies for a pic (my family joined in helping). One tip to get started: pick three things you like and make that your focus for your account. It could be books, coffee, and your dog. Or family, hiking, and healthy living. Try focusing your photos on a few things so the feed isn’t entirely random. Bonus tip: take pics in natural light and use Instagram’s edit features to adjust brightness and contrast.

Rebecca: You’re involved in a lot of contests—what do you think are the benefits of being involved in things like #PitchWars, both on the mentor and mentee sides?

Stephanie: The community aspect to writing contests cannot be understated. I found my agent through a blog pitch contest and my early critiques all came from writers I knew from blogs and twitter. There are more options than ever for writers to publish, and the choices can be overwhelming. Predatory scammers urge writers to hand over hundreds and thousands of dollars for publishing promises too good to be true. Being connected to a writer community can save you that pain. There’s a ton of information out there and groups of writers seeking similar goals can watch out for each other.

 

Lightning Round

Do you prefer to write in silence or with music?

I used to be a huge music nerd, but I tend to get most of my writing done in silence. I have a few music mixes on Spotify I’ll cue up if needed.

Ebook or physical copy?

Both! Ebooks are easy and super portable. I can start reading on my ereader and the same app on my phone will save my place. Technology is awesome.

Writing beverage of choice?

Herbal tea

One author who inspires you?

Recently: Taherah Mafi. She was a guest on Seth Meyers’ late night show and it was so cool to see a writer from the YA community on TV. Her books are great and she has incredible style.

First book you remember reading by yourself?

The Berenstain Bears

Favorite way to celebrate finishing a draft?

Reading a few books in a binge or investing time into a video game (the Fallout series is my fave! And a total time suck).

 


About the Interviewer

rebeccabarrowauthorphotoRebecca Barrow writes stories about girls and all the wonders they can be. A lipstick obsessive with the ability to quote the entirety of Mean Girls, she lives in England, where it rains a considerable amount more than in the fictional worlds of her characters. She collects tattoos, cats, and more books than she could ever possibly read. Find her on Twitter at @RebeccaKBarrow.

Her debut novel, You Don’t Know Me But I Know You, will be published by HarperTeen in August 2017.  About the book: Nothing makes Audrey Spencer happier than turning her world into art—seeing her family, her best friend, and the boy she loves through her camera lens. But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels a tightly sealed box in her heart crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

 

 

 

 

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The Debut Club: An interview with Erica M. Chapman, author of TEACH ME TO FORGET

Swanky Seventeen Kelly deVos recently interviewed Sweet Sixteen Erica Chapman, author of the YA contemporary novel Teach Me to Forget, published by Merit Press on December 2, 2016.

About the Author

erica_chapmanErica M. Chapman writes dark, emotional YA novels with a burst of humor, and lighter contemporaries with smart-ass protagonists. Her first novel, Teach Me to Forget, was published by Merit Press in December 2016. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and The Sweet Sixteens, and a lifetime Lions and Michigan football fan who loves alternative music. She loves to tweet and watch various CW and Freeform shows while typing her next story on a MacBook in a Detroit Lions Snuggie. Her writing is represented by the lovely Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis.

Find her online at ericamchapman.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

 

About Teach Me to Forget

Teach me to Forget_BG cvr.inddEllery’s bought the gun, made arrangements for her funeral, and even picked the day. A Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place.

Now all she has to do is die.

When her plans go awry and the gun she was going to kill herself with breaks, she does the one thing she has control over–return it and get a new one. After tormenting the crusty customer service associate by trying to return the gun with the wrong receipt, Ellery gets caught by the security guard who also happens to be someone she knows–the annoyingly perfect Colter Sawyer from her English class.

Colter quickly uncovers what she’s hiding and is determined to change her mind. After confessing a closely held secret of his own, he promises not to tell hers. Ellery tries to fight her attraction to him as the shadows of her past cling tight around her, but when she’s faced with another tragedy, she must decide whether her love for one boy is more important than a lifetime of pain.

Teach Me to Forget is available at amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

 

The Interview

Kelly: Teach Me to Forget follows Ellery, a teen girl with a lot of pain in her past, as she struggles with her plan to commit suicide. What inspired you to write this story?

Erica: I lost my dad to suicide when I was 16. I was too young to really understand the impact that experience would have on my life. But one question plagued me, as I got older. Why? I wanted to know why he would do it, why he felt there were no other options. So I sat down and I poured all my whys into Ellery and Teach Me to Forget was born.

Kelly: So, reading the book, I was pretty much bawling by page six. How did you manage your emotions while writing?

Erica: Aww, well, I bawled too. I would say I did a pretty crappy job managing them in the first draft. I listened to songs on repeat and just wrote and wrote. I don’t try to manage my emotions on a first draft, it’s on the revisions that I pull it together.  I think a first draft needs those emotions for it to be its most authentic. I think it’s a great disservice to your writing if you don’t tap into that emotional pit in your soul. It’s harder but the end result is more realistic and authentic.

Kelly: Even as Ellery is dealing with a lot of internal turmoil, she finds herself fighting an emotional and physical attraction to classmate, Colter Sawyer. As a writer, was it difficult to combine romantic elements with the exploration of mental health issues?

Erica: At times, yes. Ellery isn’t someone who is looking to fall in love; she wants everyone to just let her be until she can go through with her plan. She and Colter’s burgeoning romance only works because he has a savior complex. They both find what they’re missing in each other, at least at the time. She needs a safe haven from her pain until she can kill herself and when she is with him it subsides which allows her to fall for him. He needs to feel needed which she provides. Wow, this was a hard question to answer!

Kelly: One of the things that really interested me was the relationship Ellery has with her parents. Her mother, for example, means well and is trying to be supportive, but also seems unaware how serious her daughter’s problems really are. What made you take that approach when writing the mother/daughter relationship?

Erica: For this story to work her mom had to be unaware of how deep Ellery’s pain went. I drew from my own experience. My mom never knew everything about me. I hid a lot and was very good at it and so is Ellery. I also think her mom rationalized her daughter’s behavior because she didn’t want to admit that any of what happened in Ellery’s past was her fault. I think deep down Ellery wanted her mom to find out about her plan. As for her dad, that was a tough one, but after a tragedy like theirs a lot was going to change in all of their lives.

Kelly: The need for YA to deal realistically and helpfully with teen mental health issues is becoming a hot button topic in publishing. What message do you want teen readers to take away from your book?

Erica: I would say, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get rid of your pain and that your feelings are valid. Hope is attainable with help.

Depression and suicide are not easy things to talk about, but they need to be because they’re REAL. Until we approach these matters thoughtfully and without fear and prejudice, suicide will continue to happen. We have to get rid of the stigma that because we have an “invisible illness” (let’s be honest it’s not invisible, it hurts physically too) that makes it somehow less important than the physical ones, that shame somehow comes along with mental illness. I have a therapist and I’ve had medication. There’s nothing wrong with getting medicine when you’re sick. We must accept each other for who we are and let go of who we want each other to be.

It’s okay to not be okay.

Kelly: Teach Me to Forget, which released on 12/02, is one of the last of the YA debuts this year. Was it hard to wait patiently all year? Any great advice for future debut writers?

Erica: Yes! I said to myself so many times, is it here yet? I really enjoyed watching the journey of my fellow Sweet Sixteens though, so many wonderful successes!

My advice to other debut authors would be to remember that so much is out of your control. Concentrate on what you can control. Experiment with different types of marketing ideas. I’ve been having fun with trying out promoted Facebook posts, tweets, pre-order campaigns (all advertising spending was under $200). I would say to memorize your blurb; it will make it easier for in-person appearances. So many people ask me “what’s your book about?” and sometimes I got flustered because I know what my book is about but condensing it wasn’t as easy. Have a media kit (Author Photo, Press Release, Cover Image, Bio) so you can send it when asked. Make friends and plan events with authors in your area. It’s a lot more fun to do appearances with friends.  Definitely stay positive and ride the wave.

 

Lightening Round:

What’s your go-to comfort food?

Oh, Chips. I LOVE potato chips. I could eat a bag a day if I let myself! My favorite flavor is Hickory BBQ, but I also like Cheddar and Sour Cream. Oh and Cheese balls. I wish Planters still made them…

Where is your favorite spot to read or write?

I love to write in my recliner, but I get distracted easily. I’m moving in a couple months and I plan on getting a desk which I hope will become my favorite place to write ;o)

Do you have any routines or good luck charms that are essential when you write?

I only write to music. I feel like the notes really allow me to write my best. I usually pick a few songs and I play them on repeat! I typically write at night too.

What was on your playlist while writing Teach Me to Forget?

I shared the entire playlist on the blog I used to contribute to, All The Write Notes. You can find the playlist here.

Which do you prefer: a sunny day or rainy night?

Well, I love both but I think I like a sunny day just a little more. Nothing better than the sun’s rays on your skin.

 


About the Interviewer

Photo credit: Babak

Photo credit: Babak

A third generation native Arizonan, Kelly deVos can tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cactus, cattle and climate. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Her debut novel, Fat Girl on a Plane, will be published in August 2017 by Harlequin Teen and her work has been featured in Normal Noise and 202 Magazine. Find her online at insanity.today

 

 

The Debut Club: An interview with Janet McNally, author of GIRLS IN THE MOON

Swanky Seventeen Carlie Sorosiak recently interviewed Janet McNally about her debut novel, a contemporary YA just published by HarperTeen.

About the Author: 

Janet McNallyThough her family is not rock and roll royalty, Janet McNally has always liked boys in bands. (She even married one.) She has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and her stories and poems have been published widely in magazines. She has twice been a fiction fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts. Janet lives in Buffalo with her husband and three little girls, in a house full of records and books, and teaches creative writing at Canisius College. Girls in the Moon is her first novel, but she’s also the author of a prizewinning collection of poems, Some Girls.

Find her online at janetmmcnally.com or on Twitter or on Facebook.

 

About GIRLS IN THE MOON:

Girls_in_the_Moon_Crop jpegEveryone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex–rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister, Luna, indie-rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the cofounder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.

But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and to maybe even continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. Told in alternating chapters, Phoebe’s first adventure flows as the story of Meg and Kieran’s romance ebbs, leaving behind only a time-worn, precious pearl of truth about her family’s past—and leaving Phoebe to take a leap into her own unknown future.

 GIRLS IN THE MOON is available at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and IndieBound.
Continue reading

Meet the Author: Krystal Sutherland

Krystal SutherlandKrystal Sutherland was born and raised in Townsville, Australia, a place that has never experienced winter. Since then she’s lived in Sydney, where she edited her university’s student magazine; Amsterdam, where she worked as a foreign correspondent; and Hong Kong, where she’s currently finishing her degree. She has no pets and no children, but is fond of naming inanimate objects: in the Netherlands she owned a Dutch bicycle called Kim Kardashian, and a small, inflatable velociraptor called Herbert.

Krystal’s debut, OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS (Penguin/Putnam, October 4, 2016), is a contemporary Young Adult novel, described as John Hughes meets John Green in an irresistible tale of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together. It tells the story of Henry Page, hopeless romantic, and Grace Town, the girl who walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and changes everything. Grace is not who Henry pictured as his dream girl – she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. It’s obvious there’s something broken about her, but that seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

Fun facts:

  • Childhood aspiration: For the majority of high school, Krystal wanted to be an actress, a dream that was singlehandedly dashed by Peter Jackson when he failed to get a flat tire in front of her house (he was supposed to come in to use the telephone and then immediately cast her in his next movie, for which she would win an Oscar). Tragically, this seemingly foolproof plan fell through.
  • Favorite time of day/place to write: Whenever inspiration strikes (AKA whenever she forces herself to stop procrastinating). Krystal isn’t precious when it comes to writing routines/location, which is lucky, because she currently has to write in a sad dorm common room while subsisting on cup noodles and Häagen-Dazs from the 7-Eleven downstairs. The fuel for all great literature.
  • Favorite things to do (other than reading): Plot her eventual ascendance to Taylor Swift’s squad.
  • Surprising personal fact: Krystal is actually four eels inside a human skin suit.
  • Greatest thing about being a 2016 debut author: There’s a prophecy that the world is going to end on 1st January 2017 so…

Where to find her:

Twitter | Goodreads | Add Book

Meet the Author: Caleb Roehrig

Caleb RoehrigCaleb Roehrig is a former actor and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. From B Horror films to the salt mines of reality TV, he knows how your sausage gets made.

Caleb’s debut novel, LAST SEEN LEAVING (Fiewel & Friends/Macmillan, October 4, 2016), is a Young Adult contemporary thriller. THIRTEEN REASONS WHY meets GONE GIRL in this YA thriller about fifteen-year-old Flynn Doherty. His girlfriend, January, is missing, the cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn – he must know something…right? But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

Fun facts:

  • Favorite book growing up: ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll
  • Childhood aspiration: Actor, Author, or Artist (later he added Musician and Spy to the list, then redacted Spy when he realized how dangerous and murdery espionage was)
  • Favorite time of day/place to write: Typically in the evening, or after a really good run
  • Book Currently Reading: NYCKELN (THE KEY) by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren
  • Favorite things to do: Caleb loves to travel, spend time with his amazing nieces and nephews, and perform humiliating stunts that later on become great ice-breaker stories (such as, “Ever hear about the time I went to a karaoke bar and my fake mustache fell off while I was in the middle of belting out Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way”?)
  • Surprising personal fact: Has a black belt in Taekwondo
  • Greatest thing about being a 2016 debut author: A lifelong dream finally coming true!

Where to find him:

Twitter | Goodreads | Add Book

Meet the Author: Erica M. Chapman

Erica M. ChapmanErica M. Chapman writes dark, emotional novels with a burst of humor, and lighter contemporaries with smart-ass protagonists. Her writing is represented by the lovely Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis. She’s a member of SCBWI and a lifetime Lions and Michigan football fan who loves alternative music. She blogs, tweets, and watches various CW & Freeform shows while typing her next story on her MacBook in a Detroit Lions Snuggie.

Erica’s debut, TEACH ME TO FORGET (Merit Press, December 2, 2016), is a contemporary Young Adult novel. Seventeen-year-old obsessive planner Ellery tries to navigate through the guilt of losing her sister, lying to her best friend, and falling in love for the first time–all while waiting for the date she chose to die.

Fun facts:

  • Favorite Book Growing Up: THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB books by Ann M. Martin and anything by Christopher Pike
  • Childhood Aspiration: Lawyer-Astronaut-Actress-Singer (she was pretty ambitious and a little delusional)
  • Favorite time of day/place to write: At night in the recliner
  • Book currently reading/most recent: Brenda Drake’s TOUCHING FATE (SO good)
  • Favorite things to do (other than reading): Watch teen shows, golf, sing, hang with friends, go to loud rock concerts
  • Favorite sports teams: For those who have been unlucky enough to see her twitter stream during a game her favorite teams are losing this answer should be easy ;o) University of Michigan and Detroit Lions football #OnePride
  • Surprising personal fact:  She sang on stage at Carnegie Hall in college
  • Greatest thing about being a 2016 debut author: Besides being a part of an awesome group of talented authors? Knowing that her words will not float into oblivion is a pretty awesome feeling.

Where to find her:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Add Book

Meet the Author: Janet McNally

Janet McNallyThough her family isn’t rock and roll royalty, Janet McNally always liked boys in bands. (She even married one.) She’s been obsessed with stories since she was small, and can talk about fairy tales and myths for hours (or write poems about them, as she did in her prizewinning poetry collection SOME GIRLS). She lives with her husband and three little girls in Buffalo, where she teaches creative writing at Canisius College.

Janet’s debut novel, GIRLS IN THE MOON (HarperCollins/HarperTeen, Fall 2016), is a Young Adult Contemporary. Phoebe and Luna Ferris haven’t grown up in the spotlight, but that’s only because their mother, Meg, quit her famous band when the girls were small. She hasn’t said much about it since. Now, Luna has a band of her own, and their still-famous dad hasn’t called in three years. The summer Phoebe turns seventeen, she goes to visit Luna in New York, determined to discover the truth about her family—and herself.

Fun facts:

  • Favorite book growing up: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery. Anne is the original lovably neurotic teen heroine.
  • Childhood aspiration: A ballerina! Which means ballet is going to end up in one of her future novels for sure.
  • Favorite time of day/place to write: A sunny day, late morning or early afternoon, somewhere where she can see trees and sky out the window.
  • Book currently reading/most recently read: Miriam Toews’s A COMPLICATED KINDNESS. Not YA, but narrated by a sixteen-year-old girl in a tiny Mennonite town in Manitoba. The perfect combination of funny and sad.
  • Favorite things to do (other than reading): Yoga, cooking great veggie food, and hanging out with her daughters.
  • Surprising personal fact: She can’t seem to stop using the word “girls” in the titles to her books (Could it be because she has three small daughters?). Her book of poems, in part retellings of myths and fairy tales, shares the Rolling Stones’ album title SOME GIRLS.
  • Greatest thing about being a 2016 debut author: Sixteen was a favorite age of hers, so it’s nice to have a second Sweet Sixteen.

Where to find her:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads