And since it's December, Amber and I have included a few Christmas questions and a surprise excerpt from her book at the end! That's right! Christmas came early!
Interview with A.L. PlayerHi Amber! Thanks so much for being a guest today on YA Stands. I’m so excited to have you and your novel Class of ‘98! Let’s get started! How long have you been writing? Have you always known you wanted to be an author?
I’ve been writing stories since I was twelve years old. My first “novel” (handwritten on about thirty pages of notebook paper, front and back) was historical fiction, and may or may not have been inspired by my obsession with Newsies. In high school I dreamed of being an author, but didn't get serious about writing until I turned thirty.
Nice! Well, I'm thankful you did, because I absolutely loved Class of '98 and one of the characters Matt. Which means I have to ask, who is your current book boyfriend?
Ooh, this is tough…is two-timing allowed? Even though he’s a little too young for me, I can’t tear my heart away from Peeta in The Hunger Games. A little more age-appropriate, my “once and future” book boyfriend is always Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility.
Oh! Such good ones. I can't say I blame you. Colonel Brandon has always been my flame too. You have solid taste in book men! So, what book do you wish you could have written?
There are a lot of contenders on my wish list, but #1 would have to be Bridget Jones’s Diary. Hilarious, romantic, painfully true…perfect! I recognized a lot of myself in Bridget, and she helped get me through my twenties relatively unscathed.
What writing tips or advice do you have to offer other writers and authors?
It sounds very simple, but writers write. Ideas are fun and easy; novels are serious work. Commit to your projects, finish what you start, and always edit. Read widely—the genres you write, the genres you don’t, and as many writing craft books as you can get your hands on. Finally, the most important key for me has been working with other writers. Beta readers and critique partners are invaluable, and there are lots of helpful sites for connecting with other writers.
Yes. Such solid advice, Amber. I completely agree! It's one thing to talk about writing. It's another completely to do it. Now, do you have any writing habits/practices? Tea and music? Silence?
My ideal is writing in the afternoon for several hours at a time. I’m a teacher, so in the school year blocks like that are borderline impossible, but in the summer I get lots of golden writing hours. My tea of choice is Lady Grey, and I do my very best writing on my pink HP mini. My sweet, music-crazy husband makes soundtracks for my novels, so I usually have one of those playing in the background.
Which fictional book character would you like to spend the holidays with? Why?
I’m cheating my way through a lot of these questions, but—I’d choose to spend the holidays with the Weasley family. Who wouldn’t? Big, warm, loving family.Cozy, hand-knit sweaters.Fred and George’s hysterical antics. And bonus: Harry Potter might stop by!
Completely agree. Screw Harry Potter. It's all about the Weasleys! If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
I’m guessing it would be my favorite song—“Rainbow Connection” (no joke). I’m a dreamer at heart, and I’m always reaching for the next goal, no matter how impossible it may seem. (I wish I could think of something cooler than a song sung by a green felt frog puppet, but then…the fact that I can’t probably says plenty about who I am!)
Do you have any holiday traditions? What are they?
I look forward all year to making holiday candy and cookies with my mom and sister. My husband and I run through all our favorite Christmas movies and shows, including Elf (my fav!), A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Rudolph special, and, of course, that Christmas classic: Die Hard.
What is the best gift you have ever given or received?
This is birthday-related (not a proper holiday), but I love this story. When I turned thirteen my dad got really sick and was admitted to the hospital. Despite my family’s best efforts, we had to cancel my birthday party. My best friend, Emily, invited me over to spend the night, to make me feel better, but when I got to her house it was a full-blown surprise slumber party. All my friends were there, Emily’s mom had gotten a cake…I still get choked up thinking about it! That party was definitely the best gift I ever got.
Aww shucks! Emily sounds like an awesome, true blue friend! I loved that story! Makes my heart all warm and tingly! <3
Which do you prefer?
Skittles or M&Ms? M&Ms—chocolate over fruit every time.
Coke or Pepsi? Diet Coke. I live in Atlanta; Coke is practically mandatory.
Night or day? I’ll say day. These days if I make it to midnight, it’s a miracle.
Coffee or tea? I love tea, but I NEED coffee.
Sour or sweet? Sweet!
Hermione Granger or Harry Potter? Hermione is my homegirl.
Pirates or Ninjas? Pirate-ninjas? Pirates! Especially Jack Sparrow.
Cookies or cake? Both. Now. Please.
About Class of '98
Jackie Dunn and Matt Stewart barely knew each other in high school, back when she was a blue-haired alterna-kid and he was a preppy jock. High school rules dictated they'd never hang out, or sit at the same lunch table, or God forbid, date.
Excerpt from Class of '98
The first Monday of Christmas break was just cold enough for Jackie’s taste. She pulled the quilt from the foot of her bed and went downstairs with her mind on hot chocolate and morning trash television. She had just dropped a few marshmallows into the steaming mug when the doorbell rang.
“Mom? I’m not dressed. Can you get the door?” she called, ducking into the office just off the front hall. She heard her mother welcome someone warmly, then a familiar deeper tone that made Jackie’s stomach flip.
Her mother stuck her head into the office door. “Matt’s here to see you.
“Look at me.” Jackie gestured to her flannel pants and purple sweatshirt. “I’m not going out there like this.
Her mother arched her eyebrow and shot her a knowing look. “I thought it wouldn’t matter.”
Jackie rolled her eyes. “It wouldn’t matter who’s out there, I still don’t want to go out in my pajamas.”
“Um, I can wait if you want to change,” Matt called from the foyer. “Also, I can hear you.”
“Fine,” Jackie said, breezing past her mother and up the stairs. She emerged a moment later jeans on, hair brushed, mascara and lip gloss applied. Her mother crept off to the kitchen, so Jackie did not bother with polite formalities. She grabbed Matt’s arm and pulled him out onto the front step. “What do you want?”
He held out a small, giftwrapped box. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”
“Thanks, but I can’t accept it,” Jackie said in a dull voice.
He leaned back, eyes downcast. “That’s really nice.”
“You harass my boyfriend Friday night then bring me a Christmas gift Monday morning? Talk about nice.”
“I told you I was sorry about that. I thought I’d bring you a peace offering anyway. Something told me you would probably still be in a bad mood about the whole thing.”
Past his half-grin she saw real pain in his eyes, and she huffed out a sigh. “I don’t get you. Sometimes you’re so great, and sometimes you’re so frustrating.”
“Right back at you.” He held the box out to her once again.
She accepted the gift and tore off the paper. Inside a small white box were nestled two cobalt-blue stones wrapped in silver filigree. “Oh, Matt. You shouldn’t have done this.”
“Now, they’re not real sapphires or anything,” he said. “But I saw these and remembered what my mom said about your hair. I thought they matched really nicely.”
Jackie’s face burned, and she kept her gaze on the earrings. “Thank you. I’m sorry, I don’t have anything for you.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I wasn’t expecting anything, and I hadn’t planned on getting you anything until I saw these.” He nudged her with an elbow. “The timing was just right, that’s all.”
She finally met his eyes. “Well, thank you. That’s very sweet. Would you like to come in?”
He stepped closer, holding her gaze, and suddenly there was an electric tension between them. Jackie inhaled sharply, then absently reached up to place her fingers on her lips. Matt opened his mouth to speak, hesitated, then stepped back again. He shook his head.
“I would like to come in, actually, but I’ve got to go meet Christy.” He rolled his eyes. “She’s taking full advantage of this vacation week to spend time together.”
“Ha, well, have fun.” Jackie let out a shaky breath.
“Oh, yeah, sure. Lots of fun, I bet.”
She looked once again at the earrings in her hand. “Seriously, thank you for the earrings. They’re gorgeous.”
“You’re welcome.” His cheek flushed faintly. He raised a hand and started down the steps. “Have a good Christmas, Jackie.”
About the Author A.L. Player
Huge thank you to A.L. Player for being a guest on the blog today! Doesn't she have the best sense of humor, guys? Don't forget to check out her book on Amazon!
If you have a question for A.L. Player or a story about the best gift you've ever received, leave a comment below.