Congratulations to our members with books releasing today! Click on the covers below for more information about each title:
Members of the Sweet Sixteens share what they’ve learned in their debut year.
Brooks Benjamin, author of My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights
Find him online at www.BrooksBenjamin.com
“I wish I’d known that every author out there has days where he or she struggles with writing. Whether it’s rejections from editors, a seemingly unfillable plot hole, or days where the words just don’t want to come out and play. Every author struggles at times. It doesn’t get easier the more we write, but we do tend to find more creative ways to deal with it. So, struggle on, dear writer, and remember: every bump in your road just makes the journey that much more interesting of a success story when you get to tell it to someone else.”
Erica M. Chapman, author of the Teach Me to Forget
Find her online at ericamchapman.com
“I wish I’d known that… everything was going to be okay. Even if your book only helps one person feel happy or more included, or special, that one person is worth it all. There’s so much you don’t have control over, concentrate on what you do. Lean on your debut friends they know how it feels. If [insert promo idea] fails, learn from it. It may feel weird to promote yourself so much (it does to me) but remember, your readers care about who you are; stay creative and be yourself, and you’ll be okay. Enjoy each moment because you have accomplished what so many won’t. ”
Shari Schwarz, author of Treasure at Lure Lake
Find her online at www.sharischwarz.com
“I wish I’d known that all of the things I feared or worried about when my book released are things that we all fear and worry about. We’re all in this together!”
Claire Fayers, author of The Voyage to Magical North and Journey to Dragon Island
Find her online at clairefayers.com
“I wish I’d known that there would be long periods with very little happening followed by weeks of frantic activity. I wish I’d made better use of the quiet times to get ahead on the next book, plan school visits, design a website and publicity materials, and all the others things I suddenly found I needed to do. I wish I’d made a to-do list of all this right at the start. And I wish I’d known that the next book is much harder to write, and this is quite normal and not a sign of catastrophic failure!”
Kali Wallace, author of Shallow Graves, The Memory Trees, and City of Islands
Find her online at http://www.kaliwallace.com/
“I wish I’d known that all of the things that feel so fraught leading up to release stop mattering so much afterward. I stopped obsessing over reviews, rankings, and social media buzz, because at a certain point it became clear that so little of all that stuff is within my control. I figured out the only thing I could truly control was the next book–and the next one, and the one after that. That would have been nice to know ahead of time, but I suspect figuring it out is part of the new author process!”
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 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.
About Teach Me to Forget
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.
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.
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
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
Here’s our final printable release calendar to help you keep track of all the sweet December debuts coming at you soon!
Thanks to our printable calendar team: Sarah Alexander, Jenn Nguyen, Dee Romito, Shari Schwarz, Kathy MacMillan, Randi Pink and Ava Jae!
A new month, a new collection of preorder incentives for upcoming releases from the Sweet Sixteens!
TEACH ME TO FORGET by Erica Champan (Merit Press, 12/2/16) Preorder and get:
1. (1) Exclusive 5 by 7 print of original watercolor painting of Ellery (main character in TMTF) by my amazingly talented sister Hannah Langley. She painted it after I wrote the first draft. I’m so excited to share what I’ve been admiring for years with you. I added a couple of my favorite quotes from the book on the back too!
2. (1) Signed double-sided bookmark
3. (1) Signed bookplate
4. $1.50 donation for every pre-order (up to $500) to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Thanks to Nena Boling-Smith and Eric Smith for offering the additional .50 to my $1, up to $250!)
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, November 22, 2016) Preorder and get a swag pack including limited edition art cards of characters! More preorders = more art cards unlocked. If the final tier of the preorder campaign is unlocked, everyone who preordered will be entered in a drawing to receive a Kindle Paperwhite or a $100 gift card to the bookstore of their choice. US/Canada only unless order is placed through BookPeople.
Erica 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.
- 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: