Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Double Feature Edition of SP Library with Jessica L. Brooks + An Author Interview!

Why, hello! Have you noticed the snazzy new look around here? YA Stands has now become Pub Hub! What does this mean for you? You can expect to see more than YA + NA work! 

To celebrate, we have a double showcase today.

Two books.
One author.
And a fun author interview to boot!

Pity Isn't An Option

Seventeen year-old Jonas Norton is trying to come to terms with what his blood disorder has robbed from him, including his two most favorite things: basketball, and competing in Hatchet Racket, Wanless’ annual hatchet-throwing contest. The facts that his father works constantly to pay for his blood tests and Jonas can actually see the disappointment in his eyes for being such a failure only make matters worse. And even worse than all of that? Jonas' own twin brother, Micah, is perfectly healthy and becoming quite the basketball player himself. Also, Hattie, the girl Jonas has loved for forever? She has no idea how he feels.

Sixteen year-old Hattie Akerman lives down the hill from Jonas. Though her father, Heath, tries to hide his lack of mental clarity behind the bottle and she's pretty much given up on having any kind of relationship with him, she would still rather her younger sister, Lucy, not have to deal with the consequences of his behavior. Hattie helps her mother by baking food to sell at Market and looking out for Lucy. No matter what the rest of the town says about her crazy father, Jonas sticks up for them. He is, by far, her very best friend.

As if things aren’t complicated enough already, Heath and Micah are unexpectedly drafted into President Kendrick's army just days before Thanksgiving. When Heath disappears instead of arriving at the Meeting Place to check in, Hattie and Jonas decide they’ve had enough, and take matters into their own hands. And though nothing could have prepared them for what happens next, Hattie and Jonas learn that hope can be found in every situation. You just have to know where to look.

If I Speak True

Dahlia Kennedy's sixteenth birthday marks a decade of mysterious dahlias arriving and strange, lonely dreams of being in a forest. The only difference this birthday, however, is that for the first time, someone is there with her. And he's practically from a whole other era. 

The more often Dahlia visits Rowan in his land of Ambrosia, the stronger their connection grows. But... is Ambrosia real? Is he real? What is going on between the two of them, exactly, and why does he insist that she keep it to herself? 

As secrets usually go, however, it's only a matter of time before everything comes out. And when Dahlia finds out the truth of who Rowan is, who she is, and how he really feels -- it’s beyond anything she could have ever imagined.

Author Interview with Jessica L. Brooks

Your debut novel, PITY ISN'T AN OPTION, gets rave reviews for being a different style of dystopia. What inspired this?

Well, without going into a lot of detail, Jonas' and Hattie's stories slowly just came to me (a guy who had everything he cared about taken away because of a sickness involving his blood and a girl whose father was was "losing it" before her very eyes while she tried to protect her sister from it), and in the process of writing and feeling this sort of hopelessness, my husband actually came down with an autoimmune disease with the same issues Jonas had had in my head. It was crazy.

Long story short, my husband was healed (miraculously) from this incurable disease; but I now had the symptoms, the feelings, and the understanding of how it felt, personally, to go through that, which was what propelled me to move forward with Jonas' and Hattie's stories. You don't understand that dark, heavy feeling of oppression unless you've been there. So, as I felt and understood more and more of where their stories were going, the question became, "When one person isn't right mentally and another isn't physically, but both want to do the right thing and instill a sort of hope into a hopeless situation, what happens?" I like to refer to it as near-future dystopia, because though the dystopia is there because it has to be (due to issues with the government, economy, and whatnot) it isn't exactly what fuels the pace of the novel.

Can you tell us a little about Hattie and Jonas?

I tried to come up with a summary about Hattie and Jonas, but really, this blurb does a pretty good job of it:

Seventeen year-old Jonas' blood disorder has taken away everything that matters. Sixteen year-old Hattie's father is losing his marbles. When Jonas' perfectly healthy twin brother and Hattie's crazy dad are drafted into the President's army, Hattie's dad disappears. Jonas and Hattie embark on a journey to find him, and find something they'd lost long ago in the process.

How was the process of writing PITY ISN'T AN OPTION different than writing IF I SPEAK TRUE?

Gosh. PITY ISN'T AN OPTION was getting a whole lot of getting feelings down on paper, alternating between Jonas and Hattie's lives and sharing where their lives continually intersected; as well as that continual theme of lack of hope that I mentioned. I also had to find things that particularly applied to a lot of the characters: Jonas had his hatchet and his drawings, and his mother, Elise, had her sewing; Hattie had her baking, and her father, Heath, had his drinking, and so on.

IF I SPEAK TRUE, however, was a whole other deal. Dahlia's voice is much different from Jonas and Hattie's. I knew who she was and what she was going to deal with, but it took a lot longer to figure out exactly where I was going with the Ambrosia storyline. Not to mention, tons more time was spent on research, as many of the characters are named after trees and flowers and there are a lot of elements in the background in regard to other things (that readers may or may not notice).

Though both books/series are vastly different--one being dystopian and the other being magical realism--each deal with elements in regard to a main character's blood.

Can you give us the twitter pitch synopsis for IF I SPEAK TRUE?

In IF I SPEAK TRUE, 16 year-old Dahlia learns her connection to the masked man in her dreams is beyond anything she ever could have imagined

(had to delete the period--I was one character over!!!)

If I met Dahlia in a grocery store, what would I notice about her first?

Probably her hair or her eyes, especially at the beginning of IF I SPEAK TRUE as Dahlia's sleep cycle is all messed up and she's always sleeping in and running late, so her hair is a mess and she has perpetual dark rings under her eyes. Further into the book, though, once things start to calm down, I'd say her eyes again, but this time, because they're hazel and look rather nice when not being overshadowed by dark rings underneath. ;)

Where would I be most likely to find Dahlia on a Friday night?

Considering Dahlia's mother, Helen, is pretty strict, Dahlia would either be working at Shoreline Books in her hometown of Shaver, doing something with her girl best friend, Eva (though not after dark unless they were hanging at Eva or Dahlia's house--yes, Helen is that bad--not much of a social life for poor Dahlia Kennedy), or reading and catching up on homework (and possibly hanging out with her sister, Acacia, or annoyed by her sister, Aster). Later in the night, however, well, she just might end up in Ambrosia. :)

Why do you write YA?

I write YA because the characters' whose voices come to me are always in that young adult range. And, because it's what I love to read the most.

Which YA book has affected you the most?

UNWIND (by Neal Shusterman) really affected me, and was actually part of the inspiration for PITY ISN'T AN OPTION, and the Cozenage series in general.  There's so much going on in UNWIND, not only between characters, and the government, but also in those gray areas of old laws, new laws, and what is and isn't socially accepted as "right and wrong", just because. You begin to see more conspiratorial stuff as the UNWIND Dystology progresses. (That's actually the reason I named the Cozenage series what I did: cozen means "to cheat, deceive or trick; to persuade or induce someone to do something", which is exactly what President Kendrick does in PITY ISN'T AN OPTION and subsequent books.)

Name the most important thing you've learned through the self-publishing process.

The most important thing I've learned is to take. Your. Time. It took a while for me to learn that, I'll be honest. I probably--no--I definitely could have taken more time with a few things for PITY ISN'T AN OPTION. We get this feeling in the industry (as writers) that we have to hurry and get our work out there or we'll be left behind, but really, what is a month or two in the overall grand scheme of things? Not much at all. So yeah... making it as good as it can be--even if that means walking away from your manuscript for a few months in order to look at it with new eyes--I'd say that's the most important thing I've learned. I haven't heard a writer say, "I wish I hadn't waited a while and re-read that MS because it was perfect already" yet.

And serious question here: Gale or Peeta?

Josh. Er, I mean, Peeta. Jeeta? (In my mind, Josh IS Peeta. He's just... he makes Peeta for me. So... yeah. Jeeta is my final answer.)

About the Author: Jessica L. Brooks
Jessica L. Brooks resides with her husband of over sixteen years, three awesome daughters, and a plethora of pets in Central California, where fog, frost, triple-digit heat and various items of produce arrive bountifully, depending on the season. She has an affinity for both coffee and owls, and loves to connect with fellow readers and writers on most social networks like Goodreads, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also connect with her on her blog, Let Me Tell You A Story

Jessica shares reviews for her favorite books on Afterglow Book Reviews, spreads writing and author love for independently-published authors at Indie Ignites, and salutes all writers (no matter what stage of their writerly journey) at Operation Awesome.

Thanks for stopping by Jessica!

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