Friday, September 30, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig (Author Interview + Giveaway)


Hi guys! #CelebratingDebutantes2016 is coming to an end. We still have a lot of giveaways ongoing so don't miss out! Today I'm interviewing Caleb about Last Seen Leaving. Stick around for the giveaway!


***

Can you tell us about your writing style?In writing LAST SEEN LEAVING, I really wanted to create a main character whose voice would be recognizable and relatable to teenagers. Writing a contemporary teen in the first person meant I could make the narrative relaxed and conversational when it felt appropriate, which was great. It was important to me that the tension keep building throughout (it IS a thriller!) but that it also be balanced out with plenty of humor, so I tried to keep those objectives in mind throughout.

Do you have a writing ritual? Could you tell us about it?I don't have any rituals, per se, although I do tend to wait until later in the day to get started. I do a lot of plotting and problem-solving in my head when I exercise, so I prefer to work out before sitting down to do any writing. Sometimes I listen to a white noise app while I work, and always, always, always I need to have something caffeinated to drink, but that's about it!

You travel a lot. How does this contribute to your writing, in any way? Do you also write while traveling?I love to travel, and the past five years (in particular) have been filled with some really amazing adventures. I've seen places that have been on my bucket list forever (Rome, Monaco, Iceland), and visited ones I knew almost nothing about prior to getting there (Slovenia, the Faroe Islands). I find that I don't generally have the energy to write while I'm traveling, but every trip I go on provides inspiration; every new place I see becomes a possible backdrop for a new story idea.

You mixed the elements of mystery - missing girlfriend - and exploring sexuality. The former tends to lead to a fast-paced chapters, rendering readers palpitating while the latter tends to be (based on my experience as a reader) a luscious contemporary that savors and examines every moment. How did you write the novel and mix these two? How did you find the balance? This is a really interesting question! I definitely like for my thrillers to move quickly; but when digging into a topic as personal as a character's struggle with their sexuality, there also needs to be space for readers to slow down and appreciate the significance of what that character is going through. In the abstract, they might seem like objectives that shouldn't work together, but I have found (both as a reader and a writer) that the introspective personal beats allow readers a chance to breathe in between the big cliffhangers of a good suspense novel -- and that using one mood as a counterpoint to the other can greatly enhance both.

A lot of people commented on Flynn's voice. It seemed to me that while he is struggling with his sexuality, and while he suspected that he might be gay, he was also very much in love with January. He was in between of some sort. How did you establish his voice, to further cement his situation as "in struggle"? A lot of gay and lesbian teenagers who struggle with self-acceptance have relationships with someone of the opposite sex before they're ready to come out. It's a topic that most LGBT youth can relate to, I think, and one that I had a lot to say about. It was very important to me that readers understand that Flynn's relationship with January was not all "fake" or one-sided -- that he truly cared about her very much. I tried to bear that in mind throughout the crafting of the narrative, and to make it clear how deeply Flynn valued his friendship with her, regardless of anything else, and that his affection for her is part of what drives him to search for her when she goes missing.

Did you struggle with any scene or part in specific? How did you handle it? This is a hard question to answer without getting into spoilers, but I'll give it a try! There's a scene where Flynn finds himself alone with January's parents right after they've received some shocking news; this scene was probably the hardest to write, because I had three characters reacting very strongly -- yet very differently -- to the same set of circumstances at the same time. Choreographing these reactions, trying to balance them against each other and keep them real, was tricky. In the end, I essentially had to write the scene three times, once from each character's POV, and then integrate them.

Thank you for sharing, Caleb!


About the Author:

Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.

Find Caleb: Twitter | Goodreads | Website |


Book Description:

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2016 by Feiwel & Friends

Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

Giveaway

What's up for grabs: Copy of Last Seen Leaving
Scope: US!


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Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: If I Fix You by Abigail Johnson (Author Interview + Giveaway)


Hi guys! #CelebratingDebutantes2016 is coming to an end. We still have a lot of giveaways ongoing so don't miss out! Today I'm interviewing Abigail Johnson about her writing and debut. Stick around for the international giveaway!


***

What was your inspiration for If I Fix You? The only inspiration came from a scene that I saw in my head of a girl sitting up on her roof talking to the boy next door. Neither one wanted to go inside their respective houses and I started asking myself why. Then I needed to know what would happen when the girl got off her roof :)

Contemporary stories tend to be harder to write, based on what I have heard because you need to write about a series of events that can happen in real life but that is at the same time extraordinary. Did you encounter difficulties in writing If I Fix You? Yes and no. In my experience, contemporary is easier because it requires less research and worldbuilding, but it's harder because contemporary is based on real life, so I often feel more vulnerable writing it. The contemporary issues in If I Fix You aren't based on my personal experiences, but they are closer my reality then say, The Hunger Games.

What was the hardest part/scene to write? There were a lot of challenging scenes to write, but they were also extremely rewarding. One of my favorites was the big confrontation section between my protagonist, Jill, and her mom after her mom shows up after leaving months prior. There were a lot of heated words and high emotions involved, which were tricky to tap into since Jill's experience is so far removed from my own, but I'm really happy with how it turned out and I hope readers are too!

Did you watch specific movies or listen to songs that put you in writing mode for the book? Oh yeah :) I have a full If I Fix You playlist on my website including the big inspiration song, Fix You by Coldplay. As for movies/TV I watched a lot of Veronica Mars because the close father/daughter relationship in my book is so important and I seriously love Veronica and Keith Mars. I also went back to a couple older movies that I loved when I was younger, Man In The Moon and Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, both of which have romantic night swimming scenes that helped inspire the one in my book.

Could you share with us your journey to publication. How long did you work on your debut until you got an agent? It was very long in some respects and very quick in others. I spent close to six years, off and on, working on If I Fix You, then I queried for over a year, revising and making the book stronger as I received feedback. It was almost this exact time last year when I signed with my amazing agent, Kim Lionetti from BookEnds Literary Agency. We went on submission right away and sold by book in the first round of submission, and now my book is coming out in less than a month!

Thank you for sharing, Abby!


About the Author:

Abigail Johnson was born in Pennsylvania. When she was twelve, her family traded in snowstorms for year-round summers and moved to Arizona. Abigail chronicled the entire cross-country road trip in a purple spiral-bound notebook that she still has, and has been writing ever since. She became a tetraplegic after breaking her neck in a car accident when she was seventeen, but hasn’t let that stop her from bodysurfing in Mexico, writing and directing a high-school production of Cinderella, and publishing her first novel. Visit Abigail online at and follow her on Twitter, .

Find Abigail: Twitter | Goodreads | Website |


Book Description:

Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: October 25th 2016 by Harlequin Teen

Readers of Sarah Dessen, Cammie McGovern and Morgan Matson will adore this thought-provoking, complex and romantic contemporary novel from debut author Abigail Johnson, about finding the strength to put yourself back together when everything you know has fallen apart.

When sixteen-year-old Jill Whitaker’s mom walks out—with a sticky note as a goodbye—only Jill knows the real reason she’s gone. But how can she tell her father? Jill can hardly believe the truth herself.

Suddenly, the girl who likes to fix things—cars, relationships, romances, people—is all broken up. Used to be, her best friend, tall, blond and hot flirt Sean Addison, could make her smile in seconds. But not anymore. They don’t even talk.

With nothing making sense, Jill tries to pick up the pieces of her life. But when a new guy moves in next door, intense, seriously cute, but with scars—on the inside and out—that he thinks don’t show, Jill finds herself trying to make things better for Daniel. But over one long, hot Arizona summer, she realizes she can’t fix anyone’s life until she fixes her own. And she knows just where to start . . .

Giveaway

What's up for grabs: Final Copy of If I Fix You
Scope: International!


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Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen (Movie Cast + Giveaway)


Hi guys! Happy weekend! Today for #CelebratingDebutantes2016 we are featuring Becky Allen's movie cast for Bound by Blood and Sand. I am so looking forward to this particular debut!


***

When I started writing BBB&S ages ago, I didn't have any actors in mind for the characters. In fact, I didn't have much of a sense of what the characters would look like at all -- that tends to be one of the last pieces that comes to me, and they all shifted and changed through the years and through the drafts. So coming up with a cast list for BBB&S ranged from surprisingly easy -- hey, sometimes helpful images just show up on twitter! -- to really, really hard.



Jae and Tal

These are the ones that showed up on twitter: a recent photoshoot of Willow and Jaden Smith. The Smiths aren't twins, but we can hand wave that, right?



Elan

Elan was by far and away the hardest, and I admit, I wanted to find someone perfect for my male lead. It took a lot of googling to find an actor with the right description, in the right age range, and who is, frankly, dreamy enough.

Google images eventually led me to this headshot, thankfully, though it took even more searching to make sure I had the right actor associated with it! He's a recent grad named Kaiso Hill and I hope he has a bright future because, well, see afore mentioned comment on dreaminess.



Lady Shirrad

Shirrad was definitely the easiest of the characters for me to cast -- last year, when this gorgeous picture of Zendaya hit the internet, I actually said, "Oh. Yeah, that's just Shirrad in a white dress."



Lord Elthis

And finally, every story needs a villain, and in BBB&S, it's Elthis Danardae -- Elan's father. Honestly, the hardest part here was finding a photo of Sendhil Ramamurthy where he wasn't smiling and looking too friendly!

So there you have it -- what do you think?

Thank you for sharing, Becky! I myself have not read a copy of BBB&S but based on the description of Elan, I think my celebrity crush below might fit the description:






About the Author:

Becky Allen grew up in a tiny town outside Ithaca, New York, and graduated from Brandeis University with a major in American studies and a minor in journalism. She is the website director of TheBody.com, an online HIV resource, and loves New York, brunch, and feminism. Becky lives in New York City.

Find Becky: Twitter | Goodreads | Website | Pinterest | Tumblr | Instagram



Book Description:

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: October 11th 2016 by Delacorte Press

Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the realm’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

Giveaway

What's up for grabs: Copy of Bound by Blood and Sand
Scope: US!


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Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess (Author Interview + Giveaway)


Hi guys! For today, I interviewed the author of one of my most anticipated releases for 2016. If you've noticed the books that I review and feature, you would know that I'm a fantasy enthusiast. And like many people out there, I am so excited for A Shadow Bright and Burning!


***

Could you tell us about your writing style and writing process? I’m halfway between a plotter and a pantser. Before I start a book, I need to know a few things: the characters’ basic wants, the catalyst for the plot, the choice the protagonist makes at the end of the first act, the midpoint (where things change), the darkest moment, and the climax. I also have to have an idea of exactly how the book ends, even if I change it later. But after I have those things lined up, I generally just get started. Anytime I’ve tried to rigorously outline a book, things change drastically and I end up in a difficult place. I’m going to have to outline more for my third book in my current Kingdom on Fire series, but that’s at least a little different. At that point, I know the characters so well.

Could you tell us about your world building process? Most of my story ideas come from a single image. For ASBAB, it was a girl in Victorian dress shooting fire from her hands. That picture made me ask a lot of questions, like ‘What time in the Victorian era was this? If she has magic, is it out in the open or hidden? Why? Are they at war? Is it a magical war? Who are they fighting? What type of magical creature is she?’ and so on. For me, world building sort of flows organically out of the initial inspiration.

Could you tell us about Henrietta? How did you first conceive the idea of her? Has she always been a sorcerer in your head? From the moment I got the idea, I knew Henrietta was going to be a magical person. At first, I really thought she was simply a sorcerer. However, when I realized I needed more magical races, and that magicians were even wackier and more out there than sorcerers, I wanted to put her into that category. My books are not message books at all, but I thought it would be a good way to touch on the rigid class structures in Victorian England. I wanted to have a girl who was of a lower magical class, and watch how she navigates the upper crust of magical society.

How do you mold/create your boys for the novel? In a review, the boys have a Jane Austen-esque quality. Why is this? What I love about writing first person is that you can have an unreliable narrator. Henrietta isn’t a full-on untrustworthy narrator, but she has her own biases. I deliberately made it so that each of the three boys in ASBAB could slot into neat, archetypal boxes. You’ve got the rogue, the brooding one, the sweet one. As the series progresses, my hope is that Henrietta—and the audience—comes to see that the boys are more than their initial impression would give. As for Austen-esque, first of all, thank you! Second, I love me some banter, and Austen’s banter was often excellent. It’s a good source of inspiration!

What was the most difficult scene to write? Why? Without spoiling things, there’s a scene towards the end where Henrietta’s expectations are thrown off course. It was heartwrenching to write a moment where her trust is so thoroughly shattered.

If you could change a scene in the novel, what would it be and why? I don’t think I’d change anything per se, though I think I’d have added another make out. Those are always fun.

Thank you for sharing, Jessica!


About the Author:


JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she's not writing books, she's an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.

Find Jessica: Twitter | Goodreads | Website | Pinterest


Book Description:

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Henrietta can burst into flames.

Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s named the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years and invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the prophesied one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta is not the chosen one.

As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?


Giveaway

What's up for grabs: Final Hardcover of A Shadow Bright and Burning
Scope: US!


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Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West (Author Interview + Giveaway)


Hi guys! For today, I interviewed the author of one of my most anticipated releases for 2016. If you've noticed the books that I review and feature, you would know that I'm a fantasy enthusiast and I adore retellings. And like many people out there, I am so excited for Kingdom of Ash and Briars!


***

What or who inspired you to write Kingdom of Ash and Briars? Robin McKinley was one of my favorite authors growing up. Several of her fantasies are fairy tale retellings, which made me want to write retellings of my own. But it didn’t really occur to me to write a novel or try to get published until I was in college learning a little more about the industry. Then I studied abroad in France for a semester and the evocative setting led to writing the opening scene of KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS, which featured a young woman in captivity being dragged through a mysterious, snowy wood toward her probable death. I didn’t know where the story was going yet.

But one day I was sitting in French grammar class staring out into space. My parents had sent a care package full of goodies to France, including a pack of Disney princess pencils. I noticed Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella standing together on my pencil and something just clicked! I could combine the stories of the two princesses into an overarching plot of politics, war, and magic, with the girl from the snowy woods at its center.

Could you tell us a bit about your writing style? For novels, I really love writing in the first person. Third person can feel once removed from the story whereas first is so intimate. Even though it’s a challenge to portray every facet of a plot in the first person, I don’t shift to multiple POVs. I definitely feel a sense of loyalty to the first narrator who shows up in a book. That being said, I think some books do multiple POVs well enough that I don’t even really notice! And I’m sure I’ll use third person at some point in the future, but it hasn’t felt right for my more recent projects.

I have a deep appreciation for figurative language and flowery adjectives. I grew up reading dense fantasy and tried to mimic it in my writing, but when you’re 11 years old that translates to being overly-wordy and pretentious! This book, which was the first one I’d ever written, challenged me to tame my wordiness and learn to be concise without expunging the flowering language that makes writing fun.

What kind of research did you do for your debut? I’m not crazy about research, which is part of why I love making up new worlds with new places and rules. My fear when it comes to research-heavy projects is that I’ll miss some important detail of a time period or place or culture and then the whole thing will feel inauthentic or insulting. But even fantasy requires a little bit of research. For me it was about plants, foods and clothing you might find in a western European-esque setting.

Could you tell us about the story world and the process of world building? Of course! This world started with a single setting. The beginning of Bristal’s story just kind of popped out of the mystical, wintry forest. But once I had the idea for the premise, I started building the world to service the plot. I knew I needed multiple kingdoms so that the two fairy tales with their various princes and princesses could have room to play out on their own stages with some political friction existing between. I also wanted to capture the feeling that the realm of Nissera (made up of three kingdoms: Calgoran, Volarre, and Yorth) was on the verge of a sort of medieval modernization in some areas, like in the royal cities - whereas other areas feel isolated, ancient and full of old-world magic. One way this is reflected is in the names of the characters. Those born in or around the royal cities have more common names like Anthony, Charles, Elinor, and Rosamund. The elicromancers and people who live in isolated villages out to the west have older naming traditions, e.g., Bristal, Brack, and Tamarice.

What is your favorite part to write in the story? I loved writing any part where magic plays a powerful role. Whether it’s this mysterious, ancient force or sparkly fairy magic, I enjoy giving it the power to be its own character in the story. But I also love writing romantic scenes where the tension that’s been building up finally breaks in the form of a confession or a kiss.

Thank you for sharing, Hannah!


About the Author:


Hannah West has swooned over fantasy and fairy tales since before she wrote her first story about a runaway princess living on top of a flagpole with two loaves of bread. Kingdom of Ash and Briars is her first novel, which she began as a college junior while studying abroad in Orléans, France. She freelance writes for Modernize.com about renewable energy and sustainable living. She lives in Rockwall, Texas, with her husband, Vince, and Robb, their rambunctious blue heeler.

Find Hannah: Twitter | Instagram | Website | Pinterest


Book Description:

Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: September 15th 2016 by Holiday House, Inc.

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.

Amazon

Giveaway

What's up for grabs: Final Hardcover of Kingdom of Ash and Briars + signed bookmarks
Scope: US!


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Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Cat King of Havana by Tom Crosshill (Playlist + Giveaway)


Hi guys! Today, we are featuring a playlist for The Cat King of Havana. It is related to cats, the harmless kind, and Cuba, a spanish-speaking country, which I also like. I am so excited to see how the book will turn out.

Tom set out to make a playlist for you guys. An important thing of interest: he is a salsa dancer and trainer. You will find lots of videos on his website here.



Here is a sample of Tom's videos on his website. Hope you like it!




Thank you, Tom!

About the Author:

Tom Crosshill is an award-winning author, public speaker, and salsa teacher. Originally from Latvia, he moved to the United States as a teen and now lives wherever his adventures take him. A black belt in aikido, he has operated a nuclear reactor, worked on Wall Street, and toiled in a Japanese zinc mine, among other things. On a chance trip to Havana, Tom fell in love with salsa. After years of study with the world's top dancers and several long stays in Cuba, he wrote THE CAT KING OF HAVANA. You can visit Tom and find out more about CAT KING at http://www.catotrope.com

Find Tom: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Website | Author Website


Book Description:

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

Rick Gutierrez is . . . the Cat King of Havana! A cat-video tycoon turned salsa-dancer extraordinaire, he’ll take Cuba by storm, romance the girl of his dreams, and ignite a lolcat revolution!

At least that’s the plan.

It all starts when his girlfriend dumps Rick on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom when he should be out experiencing the real world. Known as “That Cat Guy” at school, Rick isn’t cool and he knows it. He realizes it’s time for a change.

Rick decides joining a salsa class is the answer . . . because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. Rick might be half-Cuban, but he dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.

Except Cuba isn’t all sun, salsa, and music. There’s a darker side to the island. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn’t just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it’s got sharp edges.

Buy Links:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound | iTunes | Kobo

Giveaway

Thanks to Tom for sponsoring this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: ARC of The Cat King of Havana
Scope: US + CA!


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Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!



Monday, September 05, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel (Author Interview + Giveaway)


Hi guys! For today, I interviewed Sonia Patel, debut author and psychiatrist, about Rani Patel in Full Effect. If you are looking for diversity in the book, this book is for you. It's dark contemporary, and tackles various themes in the book. We're also giving away a copy of Rani Patel in Full Effect - open internationally!

What or who inspired you to write Rani Patel in Full Effect? The initial inspiration came from my experiences and the experiences of teens and women I’ve known or treated as a psychiatrist. I combined these experiences first into rap and poetry. Eventually I realized the rap and poems sort of told a story about a girl who’s lived through abuse and misogyny and is discovering the ways all of that has affected her. And she’s trying to find her own identity and empowerment. That is how Rani Patel was born. She’s an amalgam of loud, intelligent, and fierce female voices. And Rani Patel in Full Effect is her story. The details of the story were inspired by three diverse cultures that I’ve grown up in—Gujarati, Hawaiian, and hip hop.

I love that the book is promoting diversity. Could you tell us a bit about the Indian culture embedded in the book? Yes, promoting diversity is very important to me because it can foster empathy and tolerance and help build individual self-worth and interpersonal relationships. In my line of work, I see it everyday.

As I mentioned in the previous question, in writing Rani Patel In Full Effect I wanted to portray Gujarati, Hawaiian, and hip hop culture, and break stereotypes, to the best of my ability. For instance, Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) do not spend their days lounging on the beach, wearing grass skirts, drinking mai tais, or living in grass shacks. They are an indigenous people that have suffered genocide. Hip hop and rap are not all about misogyny and violence. And Gujarati Indians are not all 7-11 and motel owning single dimensional hard workers. They are real people with real problems that can be accentuated by immigration. I wanted to offer readers a different perspective on Patels in the USA. And it is that aspect of Indian culture that I chose to embed in the book.

I bet you know a Patel. Patels are everywhere. Literally. The Patel diaspora from India is such that there are over 500,000 of them living in countries outside of India. In the United States alone, there are over 145,066 Patels and according to the 2000 U.S. census, the surname ranks 174th on the list of most common surnames in the country. And they’re not all related.

Most Patels are from the Indian state of Gujarat. Their is some debate over the exact origin of the Patel surname, but it’s likely the term Patel first referred to village leaders and/or a caste of landowners or farmers in Gujarat. Nowadays, Patels are involved in many types of professional occupations ranging from doctors to lawyers to engineers, though they are most often associated with small business trades, particularly motels and franchises.

Patels immigrated to America for the many of the same reasons as people from other countries. For economic opportunities. For educational opportunities for their children. For a better life. My parents were no exception- they immigrated in the early 70’s seeking the American dream. Patels often pay a price when they permanently move away from Gujarat. The price could be working two jobs with no days to rest. The price could be difficulty with adjusting to the American culture and language. It could be discrimination. The list is long, and not unique to Patel immigrants.

But, there is something missing from the Patel immigrant story. Something that casts a long, dark shadow. Something that I fear many Patels, including myself, haven’t been able to name. Something we don’t handle because we are so thankful to live in the land of opportunity. It’s something that crept into the suitcases of our parents as they boarded the Air India flight from Mumbai to London to New York City. Something that was easily caged or hidden in the cultural confines of Gujarat, where the close knit homogenous social network allowed for good of the whole and the good of the individual. But, once out of this cultural safety net, the something started it’s slow sabotage. And some Patels suffered. Like fish out of water.

I’m sure many Patel immigrants escaped unscathed, and achieved the American dream shielding themselves from the explosive mixture of old and new. But this wasn’t the experience for a number of the Patels I’ve known. For although they may have secured some financial stability and perhaps even amassed great wealth, their most intimate relationships broke. Couples. Parents and children. Adult siblings. From the outside, no one could see the damage, because there might not have been divorce or CPS involvement. No actual splitting of families.

But I’ve seen the collateral damage. The problem is that Patels don’t talk about it. Even as they whisper about rumors in the Patel community or chit chat over chai, no one speaks of the long term emotional ramifications of malfunctioning interpersonal relationships in families. Maybe in Gujarat, the endless social supports from other Patels provided enough cushion to prevent or diminish these negative emotional outcomes, but in the States, I’m sure it’s a different story. Balancing adjustment to a new culture while trying to hold onto the old culture makes creates interpersonal relationship strains and situations unheard of in Gujarat and some Patels weren’t ready. And perhaps tending to the emotional needs of a spouse or child wasn’t as much of a priority as making it in America. It’s the breakdown of the interpersonal relationships in some Patel families that I think has profoundly affected the succeeding generations. Me included. So much so that I chose the medical speciality of psychiatry, with a focus on children and adolescents, despite being told by several Patels that a psychiatrist is “not a real doctor.”

Since my experience as a Patel was that no one speaks about interpersonal relationship issues, I often wonder how emotionally hurt Patels find healing. I don’t think they go to psychiatrists. Plus, there isn’t much out there in fiction or nonfiction about Patel interpersonal relationship issues, particularly in the young adult genre. Either way, I want to shed light on these interpersonal issues that affect Patels just as much as they affect the families from every culture and nation, immigrant or not.

That’s why I chose the name Rani Patel for the main character in the young adult novel, Rani Patel in Full Effect. Rani Patel, her parents, and their experiences are based on a subtle alchemy of many Patel individuals and families I’ve known and some of the non-Patel teen and family patients I’ve treated. Rani Desai, Rani Shah, or Rani Amin would not have had the same impact.

You probably know a Patel. It is my hope that Rani Patel in Full Effect challenges you to think beyond the Patel stereotypes and truly see their humanity in their family relationship complexities. It might be what’s going on behind the closed doors of the Patel that you know.

References:

"I bet you know a Patel. Patels are everywhere. Literally. The Patel diaspora from India is such that there are over 500,000 of them living in countries outside of India (1). In the United States alone, there are over 145,066 Patels and according to the 2000 U.S. census, the surname ranks 174th on the list of most common surnames in the country (2). And they’re not all related.
1 & 2 - Global Gujaratis: Now in 129 Nations. The Economic Times. July 4, 2015. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-01-04/news/57663531_1_gujaratis-patels-united-nations


How did your knowledge and experience as a psychiatrist influence the book? As a psychiatrist who works with children, teens, and adults, I listen to people’s complex stories everyday. For Rani, I wanted to be a witness to teen girls and women who’ve survived complex dysfunctional family dynamics and incest. Over the years I’ve provided psychiatric treatment to hundreds of them. I’m well aware of how they’re shaped and injured by living through those ordeals. Besides guiding them through the very personal healing process, I wanted to advocate for them on a more societal level. I want to say, “Hey this stuff really happens in our backyards. Not just overseas.” And this kind of trauma actually damages their brains. In turn the brain damage results in symptoms, such as negative and anxious thoughts, re-experiencing feelings, low moods, and self-destructive behaviors. These symptoms “speak” their trauma instead of them being able to separate themselves from the trauma and say “this abuse happened to me.”

If the abuse happened in their youth, they may have missed out on normal child and adolescent emotional development because they were forced to serve as a sexual object and/or play a sexualized role even without improper physical contact. They were left with clashing feelings of being needed, loved and special but also used and trapped. Ironically, they probably have an innate need to preserve their primary attachment to their parents. They may desperately hold onto their abusive and/or neglectful parent because it is only in the context of the abusive relationship that have learned to function. They have not formed their identity separate from their abuser.

I also wanted to correct the inaccurate assumptions that many people hold regarding patients that have survived family dysfunction and incest.
“Can’t they just get over it?” Not usually.
“Can’t they just make better choices since they know what it feels like to get hurt?” Not usually.
“Can’t they get pissed at the abuser and cut them out of their life?” Not so easily.

Did you encounter obstacles while writing the book? How did you deal with it? 
The biggest obstacle was the ending. In most cases, survivors of longstanding sexual abuse or incest take a long time to fully heal. I often tell my patients that for each year they suffered trauma, it may take that many years to fully recover. Of course they will get a little better each year, but it takes time to overcome the damage that trauma causes. In the book, Rani was not fully recovered by the end. But she had stopped engaging in self-destructive behavior, gained insight into how the abuse had affected her, and knew what steps she’d have to keep taking to continue building her identity and power.

In real life, getting to that point would probably take more than a year to achieve. Because I wanted to give the reader some kind of resolution, I chose to have Rani develop insight. I wanted the reader to see what insight looks like. Insight is just the first step to healing. Maintaining positive behavior change and building identity and interpersonal relationships come next and can take years.

How different was the original version of the story from the final version? What changed? There are two major differences.

1. In the first version, I made Pradip’s overt sexual abuse/incest of Rani more subtle and his covert sexual abuse/incest of her more prominent. In the final version, I presented both more equally.

Overt incest involves touching. Most people can infer that this form of incest can have devastating consequences on the survivor. Overt and covert incest often occur simultaneously.

Covert incest is more subtle and some readers might not know it exists. In covert incest, there is no direct touching but there is suggested sexuality because the child is used by the adult for their own emotional fulfillment. In Rani’s case, Pradip used her as his “emotional wife.” Even if Pradip had not sexually touched her, the relationship would still have been sexualized and Rani would still have learned that she was good only if she could please her father. Her normal emotional development would still have stopped and she still would’ve grown up thinking she was nothing more that an emotional and sexual object for people to use. This is the exact same lesson children who have been through overt incest receive.

So, survivors of covert and overt incest can display the exact same symptoms and consequences as they become adults.

In writing Rani, I obviously wasn’t writing a psychiatric textbook on the effects of overt and covert incest. I was concerned that if I downplayed the overt incest, it might not be clear to the reader that by keeping Rani so close to him, Pradip was in fact still sexually abusing Rani. So I decided to describe the overt incest in a little more detail. Rani would’ve suffered the same symptoms in any of these situations: overt incest alone, covert incest alone, or combined overt and covert incest.

2. In the first version, Rani got pregnant after Mark raped her and she got an abortion. Turns out by including those two topics, there was just too much going on. Plus I wanted the focus to be more on the incest and rape. So, I got rid of the pregnancy and abortion.


Thank you, Sonia!

About the Author:


She is the first person in her Gujarati immigrant family to be born in the United States of America. Her parents had a traditional arranged marriage in Gujarat, India.

She graduated from Moloka'i High & Intermediate School, then obtained her bachelor's degree in history at Stanford University. She earned a medical degree from the University of Hawai'i John A. Burns School of Medicine, and then completed five years of residency training in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry at Stanford University and the University of Hawai'i. Immediately after residency, she worked as a psychiatrist on both Oahu and Moloka'i.

Currently, she practices psychiatry on Oahu. She is especially passionate about helping teens work through the emotional sequelae of sexual, physical, and mental abuse. She also does family therapy to help resolve complicated family systems issues. In addition, She has led various teen groups- process therapy groups aimed at building interpersonal and assertiveness skills for depressed, anxious, and eating disordered girls, book discussion groups with incarcerated girls from all the Hawaiian islands, and safe sex psychoeducation groups with psychiatrically hospitalized teens.

When she is not in the office, you can find her trekking in some lush mountain or valley. Or making hot fudge (or any other sweet treat with the magic five ingredients of semi-sweet chocolate, butter, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla). Or listening to hip hop. Or writing rhymes. Or practicing the latest hip hop dance moves (much to the chagrin of her children). Or discovering new TV shows to binge watch (her favorites include: Peaky Blinders, The Wire, Game of Thrones, and The Hour). And then there's foreign travel, which she doed for two reasons: culinary pleasure and finding underground hip hop clubs. So far, the best of both are in Seoul, Tokyo, and London.

She lives on Oahu with her husband, two children, and dog.

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Book Description:

Hardcover, 315 pages
Expected publication: October 11th 2016 by Cinco Puntos Press

Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-ass Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer in full effect. But in truth, she's a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, isolated from her high school peers by the unsettling norms of Indian culture where "husband is God." Her parents' traditionally arranged marriage is a sham. Her dad turns to her for all his needs—even the intimate ones. When Rani catches him two-timing with a woman barely older than herself, she feels like a widow and, like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Her sexy bald head and hard-driving rhyming skills attract the attention of Mark, the hot older customer who frequents her parents' store and is closer in age to her dad than to her. Mark makes the moves on her and Rani goes with it. He leads Rani into 4eva Flowin', an underground hip hop crew—and into other things she's never done. Rani ignores the red flags. Her naive choices look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she'd lost, including her mother.

Giveaway

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