Month: May 2017

A Conversation with Wendy Brant

Courtesy of Wendy Brant

She has wanted to become an author since the fifth grade and finally has a published book with her debut YA novel Zenn Diagram, which is one of my top reads so far for the year. I had a fun interview with Wendy Brant and enjoyed getting to know her. My review for Zenn Diagram is here.

Buy Zenn Diagram Now!
Amazon US
Amazon UK

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room): Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’ve lived in Illinois my whole life, in various northwest suburbs outside of Chicago. I was a pretty typical introverted book nerd as a kid, and then I somehow became a nerdy cheerleader with a bunch of extroverted friends in high school, so I’ve sort of surfed between the introverts and extroverts ever since (though the introverts are my true people). I’ve been married for 23 years and have two great teenage kids (one who is about to go off to college). I like candy, time by myself, glass bottles (especially ones with corks), street tacos, good indie rock/coffee house music. I don’t especially like rude people, any kind of olive (except in oil form), most jazz or country music, or (surprisingly) … COFFEE. The only way I can drink it is with a lot of chocolate, just like Eva.

JRR:  I’m an introvert myself. I think we would get along great!  Did you always want to become an author?

Pretty much. When I was in 5th grade, I entered and won the young authors contest at my school, and it gave me my first taste of writing success. From that point on, this has been my dream.

JRR: That’s great that you finally reached your dream with Zenn Diagram.  I really enjoyed reading it!  Now, what inspires you to write?

Great question. I really don’t know. I like making up stories. I like the creative process. I like to connect with people over shared experiences. Basically, it’s fun for me and that is my inspiration.

JRR:  What does your writing process consist of?  Do you research, do you handwrite or type, do you listen to music or prefer silence?

I generally don’t like doing a ton of research unless it is absolutely necessary – research is really my more my mom’s thing (she LOVES it!). I do what I need to do for the story, but major research (and then trying to figure out how to seamlessly tie it in) is a challenge for me. I write on a computer, though occasionally I’ve been known to scribble pages in a notebook if I’m in a pinch (always with a nice pen – I like good pens). I generally like it relatively quiet when I write because I get easily distracted, but I do often pick certain songs that go with my story and make a playlist to inspire me. (I just don’t listen to it while I’m writing.) I don’t currently write on any kind of schedule though that is my dream: to have a regular writing schedule.

JRR: What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors?  I know the journey to become published and can be long and hard.  What made you go the ‘traditional route’ versus indie/self-publishing?

Twenty-five years ago, when I started writing and trying to get published, self-publishing is not what it is today. It really wasn’t even an option for me at that time. It has definitely come a long way, but I don’t have the platform or social media following or marketing chops to try to sell my book on my own. I knew I had to pursue a traditional path or my book would never find an audience. I always had confidence that someday I would be published. I practiced – a LOT – and kept doing research and never stopped believing it would happen. And here we are!

JRR: And yay for that! It was a long process, but you did it! Who was your favorite author as a child and now as an adult?

As a child I loved Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. I read paranormal/fantasy books by Ruth Chew and suspense novels by Lois Duncan. I remember really liking the “Great Brain” series by John D. Fitzgerald.

As an adult, I enjoy reading YA authors like Suzanne Collins, John Green and Rainbow Rowell. I also like adult novelists like Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes and Elizabeth Berg.

JRR:  We have some similarities with the books we read.  Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

There are so many classics I have never read! Honestly, I’m not sure how I made it through all my years of school without reading The Grapes of Wrath or On the Road or any Jane Austen or Mark Twain. I’m actually not very well read by usual standards. There are just so many books!

JRR: I also have not read many classics other than what I had to read in school and college(which has been a long time).  Can you tell me what’s the best advice you have ever received?

Hmmmmm. Maybe “Life is hard, but we can do hard things”? My life has not been especially hard, but I like the idea that worthwhile things are not always easy, but they are not impossible.

Also, I don’t know if it’s advice, but it’s something to always remember these days, when people (especially people on the internet) can be so harsh and angry: “Just a reminder. There’s not two of you – Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not kind.” –Glennon Doyle Melton

JRR:  I like that quote and that is true.  It’s something to remember.  Where did the idea for Zenn Diagram come from? 

I’m not 100% sure. With everything else I’ve written, I could tell you exactly where the idea was born. But with Zenn Diagram, I literally went to the park one day and brainstormed ideas, and one was: A girl who can see the future meets a boy who can’t escape the past. And that morphed into Zenn Diagram. I will say this: at the time that I started writing Zenn Diagram, my daughter was a freshman in high school and I watched kids her age struggle with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. God forbid teens show weakness, right? And I think that the idea of a girl who longs for connection, but is bombarded by peoples’ struggles came from that.

JRR:  I love that Math and Art is so prominent in Zenn Diagram. What made you chose those subjects or was it always going to be them based on the direction the story takes?

I’m not totally sure (I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I?). I know that STEM fields are still dominated by men, so I liked the idea of featuring a girl who is into math/science and a boy who is into art – seemed to be a refreshing change. I also liked the thought that Eva being a black & white, analytical person makes it even more difficult for her to deal with emotions and feelings all the time.

JRR:  I was never good at Math or Science. It seems many girls have problems with those subjects, so I agree that having Eva’s strengths in Math could help girls. Some girls who are good in those areas could ‘look up’ to Eva as well as they realize that it’s ok to be good at Science or Math after all.

I really liked Eva. She was a perfect protagonist for Zenn Diagram. Did you base her off anyone or is she several people combined? As for her ‘special gift’ (or is it a curse?) where did that idea come from?

While she is not based on my kids exactly, there is some of them in her. My kids are smart and interesting, but they haven’t always felt like they fit in in high school. I think that is normal. What’s baffling to me is that some of the more negative feedback I’ve gotten about the book is that there’s this whole “not like other girls” idea. That Eva thinks of herself as “different” and sort of judges other girls. And … that is true. She does feel different, and she doesn’t always understand her peers. While not ideal – it would be nice if everyone respected and understood each other – I think this is definitely real. Everyone feels different. Everyone occasionally makes themselves feel better or worse about it by comparing themselves to others. We are still works in progress. Eva feels different, feels excluded, and definitely judges others in her weak moments. But I think you’ll find by the end of the story, she learns that people are not always the stereotypes that they seem to be. (Also, she has a gift/curse that makes her LITERALLY different from other people. So the “not like other girls” thing … it’s kind of true for her.)

As for where that idea came from … again, I’m not 100% sure. As I mentioned above, I’ve watched how teenagers try to hide their secrets and insecurities from others. Adults do the same thing, but with teenagers it can feel like a matter of survival. I thought it would be fun to explore what would happen if they couldn’t hide.

JRR:  Same question about Zenn.  I loved him!  Was he based off anyone in particular or not? Or was he the ‘perfect guy’ for Eva that you just knew how his character should be?

No, he wasn’t based on anyone in particular. I just know that one of my pet peeves in love stories is when guys are TOO gushy about their feelings. I’m all for sharing and being open, but when a guy spouts these over-the-top romantic lines, I gag a little. So I wanted Zenn to play it a little more cool. Like, it’s obvious that he cares about Eva, but I didn’t want him to be the kind of guy who constantly tells her how beautiful she is, or get overly jealous or weird or stalkerish. I also loved the idea of a guy who has had a hard life, but isn’t overly bitter about it. A guy who puts his head down and works to try to do the right thing. What’s not sexy about that?

JRR:  I love their romance and the fact that it was not a love triangle. I am so glad you did not go that route! Although, there really wouldn’t have been room for a love triangle with the direction the novel went.  Did you know that Zenn Diagram was always going to go in the direction that it did, or did it take on a life of its own?

My stories always take on a life of their own a little bit, but I generally knew where it was heading. When I write, I sort of know the beginning and the end, and then the middle is just a fun, winding ride.

JRR:  The ending was perfect in my opinion although I still wanted more when it was over. Do you think you may continue Eva’s story or will Zenn Diagram be a standalone novel?

That’s probably more up to my publisher and “fans” than it is up to me. I wrote it as a stand alone novel, but I could see how it could be turned into a series, if there were interest.

JRR:  We will see what happens! Have you begun to think about your next novel?  Or are you just enjoying Zenn Diagram being out there for everyone to enjoy?

Yes! I actually have another completed YA novel that I wrote before Zenn Diagram that I would love to resurrect. It’s a dystopian story and whenever I tell people about it, they always get really excited. I feel like it might be able to find a place in the market, now. And I’m also working on a traditional contemporary YA story of a tech savvy girl and a tech challenged guy, both with some baggage, and how they get stranded together during an ice storm and have to learn to appreciate someone who sees the world differently.

JRR:  Dystopian novels are definitely popular now.  I look forward to your next novel whatever it may end up being, whether either novel that you just mentioned or something else entirely.

If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Patti Ford (she’s a blogger who I find absolutely hilarious), Glennon Doyle Melton (another blogger who inspires me daily), and maybe J.K. Rowling. Or Ellen DeGeneres. Or Barack and Michelle Obama. Too many choices!

My answer is not very deep, I know. But … it is what it is.

JRR: It doesn’t have to be deep. It’s your dinner and your selection of people (if you can narrow it down 😉 ) Do you have anything else you would like to share with us?

I just want to thank you everyone who has read Zenn Diagram. To those that like it: I’m so glad! That is definitely my goal. I hope I get the chance to write more for you!

**Thank you so much for your time with this interview Wendy!  It was a pleasure to read your book and to get to know you!

                                                                                        Courtesy of Wendy Brant

Wendy and her fellow debut KCP Loft authors having fun in LA! They look like such a fun bunch!  They are:
Lindsey Summers- Textrovert
Wendy- Zenn Diagram
Jeff Norton- Keeping the Beat
Kim Turrisi- Just a Normal Tuesday

What is STEM?

Contact Wendy:
Website
Facebook
Twitter @WendyJoBrant
Instagram  @wendyjobrant

Bombshell Books are Back!

**I am happy to make this announcement in conjunction with Bloodhound Books. I have worked with Bloodhound Books with some blog tours and I look forward to working with Bombshell Books in the future.**

After launching with the hilarious The Queen of Blogging, Bombshell Books are back with two new authors and three fabulous novels.

Therese Loreskar returns with her sequel to The Queen of Blogging – The Queen of New Beginnings

Therese Loreskar started her career in 2010 self-publishing her first novel, which quickly became a critically acclaimed best-seller.

In 2014 she was signed by a Swedish publishing house before being signed by Bombshell in the summer of 2016. Her novel, The Queen of Blogging, received overwhelming feedback and the book was referred to as a modern Bridget Jones.

Therese has since had four bestselling children’s books.  Her never-ending energy for writing and entertaining people is her biggest trait.

Therese lives in the countryside on the west coast of Sweden. She has a big and busy household with her husband, two children, deaf cat, five hamsters and a grandmother. When she is not busy writing stories she enjoys nature, people, history, redecorating the house without permission and all other kinds of creativity.

The Queen of New Beginnings will be published on August 10th this year.

**The Queen of Blogging made my top ten last year. I highly enjoyed it and my review for it is here.

Guardian book prize shortlisted author, Suzie Tullett, signs with Bombshell Books

Suzie Tullett is an author of contemporary humorous fiction and romantic comedy. She has a Masters Degree in Television & Radio Scriptwriting and worked as a scriptwriter before becoming a full-time novelist. Her motto is to ‘live, laugh, love’ and when she’s not busy creating her own literary masterpieces, she usually has her head in someone else’s.

Suzie lives in a tiny hamlet in the middle of the French countryside, along with her husband and two Greek rescue dogs. You can find Suzie on Twitter: @SuzieTullett or you can visit her website.

Her heart-warming romantic comedy, The Trouble with Words, will be published on July 29th this year.

Debut author, Callie Langridge, joins Bombshell Books

Caroline was born and brought up in Berkshire. After a brief teenage spell in the depths of Lancashire, she moved back to London. Having left school at 16, she studied drama before embarking on a career in marketing. This saw her work in music marketing in the heady days of Britpop in the late ‘90s. She unleashed her creativity in the design of window displays and
marketing campaigns for the leading music retailer.

More recently she has followed her passion for social history and currently works in marketing for a national historical institution, promoting projects and running events. On hitting her thirtieth birthday, she decided finally to take her A levels and gained A’s in English Literature and Language, and Film Studies – not bad when working full time – and this spurred her on to take the first of many creative writing course. A few years later and she has had a number of short stories published and plays performed at theatres and venues across London.

Caroline lives in London with her long-term partner and an ever-growing collection of antique curiosities.

Her beautifully written and heart-wrenching debut novel, A Time to Change, will be published on September 24th this year.

Bombshell Books is an imprint of Bloodhound Books. Bombshell publishes brilliant women’s fiction and is on the look out for new authors. We want stories that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love. For more information visit our website.

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First Line Friday #21

Today’s First Line Friday is one I look forward to reading.  There is also a planned movie adaption starring Viola Davis and Julia Roberts.

The miracle happened on West 74th Street, in the home where Momma worked.

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

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