This week’s First Line Friday was another YA novel that was released last month. Thank you to Kids Can Press and KCP Loft for sending me the arcs of these great YA novels! My review for Textrovert is here.
Fate had a twisted sense of humor.
It’s bad enough when high-school senior Keeley grabs the wrong phone while leaving her small town’s end-of-summer fair. It’s even worse when she discovers that the phone she now has belongs to the obnoxious, self-centered Talon and that he’s just left for football camp … with her phone. Reluctantly, the two agree to forward messages for a week. And as Keeley gets to know Talon, she starts to like him. Keeley learns there’s more to Talon than the egocentric jock most people see. There’s more to Keeley, too. Texting Talon, she can step out of the shadow of her popular twin brother. Texting Talon, she can be the person she’s always wanted to be.
Sparks fly when the two finally meet to exchange their phones. But while Keeley has been playing a part online, Talon has been keeping a secret. He has a different connection to Keeley — one that has nothing to do with phones, and one that will make their new relationship all but impossible. Knowing what she now knows, can Keeley trust him? And can love in the present erase mistakes of the past?
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.
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
Last week was my first Standalone Sunday, and I think I will try and make this a weekly feature on my site. Standalone Sunday was started by Megan over at Bookslayer Reads.
What is Standalone Sunday?
Each Sunday bloggers feature a standalone book (one that is not part of a series) that they loved or would recommend. The standalone can also be one you want to read. There is so much focus on books that are part of a series that standalone books seem to be forgotten. They can be just as great as book series!
Without further ado, here is my selection for Standalone Sunday:
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Book Description from Goodreads:
Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.
But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.
I listened to the audiobook version back in 2014 and it made my Top 5 that year. I wasn’t expecting much from it when I picked it up at the library as the description on the cd case was very different from the above description. I wish I could get that description for you to compare, but it was something along the lines of Kyra enjoying reading and relaxing in trees.
There is something about FLDS and polygamy that I just find fascinating. I don’t know what it is, maybe because I am not a part of that culture and it is so extreme and different from what I live in. If memory serves, The Chosen One does not say that Kyra is part of FLDS.
I need to request this book from the library again so I can properly review it since I listened to it way before I was writing book reviews. I was taken on a roller coaster while I listened to this book. It is a short one. There are just five cds (5.5 hours of listening). According to Goodreads, it is just 213 pages.
It is a short enough book and can be read very quickly, I recommend everyone to give The Chosen One a try!