Tag: Wendy Brant

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

First Line Friday #19

Today’s First Line Friday is another YA (Young Adult) novel that was recently released. This one is also in my top reads of the year so far.  My review for it is here.

I hold Josh’s TI-84 in my left hand, press a few buttons just for show and wait for the vision to come.

The more I touch someone, the more I can see and understand, and the more I think I can help. But that’s my mistake. I can’t help. You can’t fix people like you can solve a math problem.

Math genius. Freak of nature. Loner.

Eva Walker has literally one friend—if you don’t count her quadruplet three-year-old-siblings—and it’s not even because she’s a math nerd. No, Eva is a loner out of necessity, because everyone and everything around her is an emotional minefield. All she has to do is touch someone, or their shirt, or their cell phone, and she can read all their secrets, their insecurities, their fears.

Sure, Eva’s “gift” comes in handy when she’s tutoring math and she can learn where people are struggling just by touching their calculators. For the most part, though, it’s safer to keep her hands to herself. Until she meets six-foot-three, cute-without-trying Zenn Bennett, who makes that nearly impossible.

Zenn’s jacket gives Eva such a dark and violent vision that you’d think not touching him would be easy. But sometimes you have to take a risk…

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Zenn Diagram

Author: Wendy Brant
315 pages in Paperback

Published: April 4, 2017
Dates Read: April 4-12, 2017

My Rating: 5 stars

Book Summary from Goodreads:

The more I touch someone, the more I can see and understand, and the more I think I can help. But that’s my mistake. I can’t help. You can’t fix people like you can solve a math problem.

Math genius. Freak of nature. Loner.

Eva Walker has literally one friend—if you don’t count her quadruplet three-year-old-siblings—and it’s not even because she’s a math nerd. No, Eva is a loner out of necessity, because everyone and everything around her is an emotional minefield. All she has to do is touch someone, or their shirt, or their cell phone, and she can read all their secrets, their insecurities, their fears.

Sure, Eva’s “gift” comes in handy when she’s tutoring math and she can learn where people are struggling just by touching their calculators. For the most part, though, it’s safer to keep her hands to herself. Until she meets six-foot-three, cute-without-trying Zenn Bennett, who makes that nearly impossible.

Zenn’s jacket gives Eva such a dark and violent vision that you’d think not touching him would be easy. But sometimes you have to take a risk…

My Review:

What more can I say than this?: I absolutely loved and adored Zenn Diagram!  In fact, it has made its way into my #1 read of 2017 so far this year! I have been reading a lot of thriller and suspense books lately, so it was a welcome change of pace when I started Zenn Diagram which is YA (Young Adult).

Eva is a loner in school by choice.  She has a unique ‘gift’ (or is it a curse?) She can touch someone or something and then gets these visions and fractals (a repeating pattern that becomes clearer over time.) She tutors fellow students in Math because through these visions she can see where students are having their difficulties  by simply touching their calculator.  She also learns issues and secrets that she may not want to know.  Needless to say she avoids touching others at all costs…. Until she meets Zenn, a boy in school that she begins to tutor.

Zenn Diagram is Wendy Brant’s first novel and it is a brilliant debut!  I did not want to put it down.  The characters are fully developed and you can’t help but adore both Eva and Zenn. Eva is smart and feisty, yet also lonely and frustrated.  You really see through her how it can be not being able to touch someone. Her ‘aversion to touching’  has made her classmates believe she is a ‘germaphobe’, which puts her in that category of one the ‘weird kids’ in school.

Zenn is a hardworking guy and also very adorable.  At first Eva isn’t sure what to think of him when she accidentally touches his jacket and gets an unpleasant fractal.  Over time the relationship grows and a romance progresses.  They are delightful together! It is a sweet romance that you can’t help but eat up and want more of.  The issue of how can a romance occur if you can’t touch the other person is brought up.  A conversation with Eva and some friends takes place involving consent in regard to physical contact, which seems to be becoming a more mainstream topic now. In that conversation there is a great analogy involving tea. Even though I don’t drink tea, you won’t think of it in the same way again. You want things to work out as Eva and Zenn are perfect for each other at this stage in their lives.

Zenn Diagram is more than just a sweet teenage romance.  There are things in both Eva and Zenn’s lives that are far from perfect. There are things we don’t know about both of them at first and then Wendy Brant goes and pulls a twist from out of nowhere that I would have never suspected!  It was exceptional!  From that reveal there is a change of direction with the novel.  When the novel was over I wanted more.

This is a brilliant first novel and I look forward to what Wendy Brant will bring us next!

**I received an e-arc through NetGalley and a physical arc from Kids Can Press and KCP Loft. Thank you so much for my copies!

**Note to Parents: Zenn Diagram is filled with ‘teenagers being teenagers’ and we see all the teen angst that occurs with teen relationships. In addition to the intimacy issues addressed there is language, but I feel neither is worse than what teenagers hear at school or see on television. There is no teen drinking or drug use in Zenn Diagram. There is language throughout the novel and yes the F-word is used. If you are worried about that then please read (and love) this book before giving to your kids. On my arc copy it recommends the book for ages 14-18, which I would agree with.

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