Interview with Tiffany Schmidt, Author of Send Me A Sign

Tiffany Schmidt is the author of the recently released  Send Me A Sign.  I’m delighted to have her as a guest in the virtual offices today!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Tiffany Schmidt] Former wild-child who blamed all hijinks on imaginary friends. Now: pretends to be a grown up, makes up stories, plays with impish twin sons

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Send Me A Sign?

[Tiffany Schmidt] Send Me A Sign is about Mia, a superstitious high school senior who is diagnosed with leukemia. It’s about the ways Mia struggles with keeping her illness a secret because she doesn’t want it to change how people perceive her—and because she’s not ready to handle the ways it will change her life. In three words, it’s about: Love, Life & Luck.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Tiffany Schmidt] My stories always start with a character – I came up with ultra-superstitious Mia first, then looked for scenarios that would challenge her. Mia is terrified by situations where she’s not in control or there aren’t set guidelines for how she should act—cancer breaks all the rules for expectations. Mia loses control of her own body, and she struggles so much with not being able to predict or shape the way other people react to her cancer. The tension between Mia’s denial of her illness and her paralyzing fear of letting down everyone else drive the story. Throw in the normal, everyday pressures of being a teenager—because a cancer diagnosis doesn’t stop a person from falling in love, fighting with friends, or worrying about disappointing her parents—and you’ve got SEND ME A SIGN.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Mia?

[Tiffany Schmidt] Superstitious. Over-achiever. Anxious.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Mia would never have in her purse?

[Tiffany Schmidt] 1) A compact with a broken mirror. (Though she would always have an unbroken one).

2) A hospital bracelet, medication, or anything that would reveal she’s sick.

3) A penny found laying tails-side-up.

[Manga Maniac Café]  If Mia had a theme song, what would it be?

[Tiffany Schmidt] “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. Also “Girls Like You” by The Naked And Famous

[Manga Maniac Café]  What is Gyver’s most prized possession?

[Tiffany Schmidt] His guitar

[Manga Maniac Café]   What are your greatest creative influences?

[Tiffany Schmidt] This changes quite a bit depending on what I’m working on. For Send Me A Sign, I was heavily influenced by music. Gyver’s playlists are woven throughout the book and Mia looks for signs in the lyrics of songs. One of my greatest sources of creative influence was Jack’s Mannequin’s “Glass Passenger” album, particularly the songs that chronicle the lead singer, Andrew McMahon’s, own battle with leukemia.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What three things do you need in order to write?

[Tiffany Schmidt] 1) The book’s playlist while I’m writing and silence for revisions.

2) Colored pens. My favorites are Staedtler triplus fineliners. I revise & edit on print outs. By the time I’m done it looks like Rainbow Brite exploded on my pages.

3) Revision Skittles (the rest of the world calls these Crazy Core Skittles). I’ve got a serious addiction, but only allow myself to eat them while revising. The rule is: One Skittle for every page revised.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Tiffany Schmidt] Every Day by David Levithan. I’m always in awe of the ways David reinvents himself and challenges a reader’s preconceptions with each of his novels and Every Day did not disappoint. I pre-ordered a copy for my sister before I read it because I fully anticipated needing to discuss it when I finished… of course I finished and she’s off in Europe. So now I’m hounding St.Matt to READ IT NOW and making lists of topics I want talk about when he’s done.

[Manga Maniac Café]  If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Tiffany Schmidt] I was a very early reader, so the honest answer is probably The Poky Little Puppy or something by Seuss.

The first time I really remember reading a book and thinking That’s ME – was Super Fudge. I didn’t identify with Peter, I related to Fudge, the kid who managed to find trouble even when he wasn’t looking. I had similar reactions to Ramona and Matilda. My long-suffering mother was thrilled that reading kept me in one place and out of trouble… at least until I finished a book and tried re-creating the characters’ antics.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Tiffany Schmidt] I love to run, kayak, and play tennis, but I’m equally content to curl up in a hammock with a good book and either a Schmidtlet or a puggle (never both at the same time or we’ll all end up overturned). I go through way too much sugar and butter each week, because I’m constantly baking—then mailing out all sorts of cookie & cake care packages.

Oh, and Twitter. I’m pretty darn addicted to that too.

[Manga Maniac Café]  How can readers connect with you?

[Tiffany Schmidt] · Website: www.TiffanySchmidt.com

· Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TiffanySchmidtBooks

· Twitter: @TiffanySchmidt

· Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/tiffanyaschmidt/send-me-a-sign/

· E-mail: TiffanyASchmidt@gmail.com

· Mail: Tiffany Schmidt

PO Box 119

Fountainville, PA 18923

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can order Send Me A Sign from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below

Review: Paradise Kiss Vol 1 by Ai Yazawa

 

Title:  Paradise Kiss V 1

Author:  Ai Yazawa

Publisher:  Vertical

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Yukari is a spirited high school senior in the process of studying for her college entrance exams. Sadly the prospect of subjecting herself to a meaningless dull life leaves her feeling depressed about the future.  In a bout of frustration, Yukari begins to ignore her courses and she begins to hang out with a group of fashion design students. But what Yukari doesn’t know is that this circle is known as Paradise Kiss, and they are run by a pair of young designers already making their mark on the Asian scene. Furthermore, while her life is going to soon change, it will not be due to the elite political or commerce based future her family may have hoped for, instead her life may eventually be set in a world of high fashion, with her strutting down the catwalk as the face of Asian fashion!


Review:

How lovely to see Paradise Kiss back in print after so long!  This series,  Peach Girl, and Marmalade Boy  are directly responsible for my love of graphic novels.  During the hey-day of the US manga craze, there were so many wonderful books being released that it was hard to keep up with them all.  There was also a lot of garbage hitting store shelves, in such an overwhelming wave, that buyers couldn’t keep up.  Then the recession hit, and it was bye-bye to several of my favorite publishers.   CMX’s demise hit me the hardest, because DC’s imprint had licensed some unique titles, and many of the series that I followed were being released by them.  When Tokyopop shuttered, I actually became so discouraged with comics that I started reading prose books again.  Am I bitter that I will never see the end of I Hate You More Than Anyone or Kamui?  Am I upset that Silver Diamond and Demon Sacred were never competed?  You betcha! That’s one reason why I was so happy to see ParaKiss back in print with a new publisher.  This is a timeless story of a high school girl’s coming of age, with fun characters and gorgeous illustrations.  It deserves to stay in print, and since it’s been ten years since it was last published, there is a brand new audience out there just waiting to discover it.

One thing that I love about Ai Yazawa’s storytelling style is how she sprinkles humor into her plot when events get emotionally intense.   There is so much drama, drama, drama, which I love, and then all of a sudden there is this marvelous little blast of humor – either a joke from one of the characters or a humorous visual to ease all of that tension, just a little bit.  It is more evident in NANA (speaking of which, what happened to NANA?), but there are small glimpses in this first installment of Ai Yazawa’s classic romance.  I enjoy the contrast to the heart-stopping tension, and look forward to seeing how she’ll maneuver her characters from emotional trauma to eliciting an chuckle from the reader. 

In ParaKiss, Yukari is a high school senior with a lot of her mind.  She is cramming for her college entrance exams, and she doesn’t have time to get involved with a bunch of weirdos from the local fashion school.  Once she meets charismatic George and is caught under petite Miwako’s charm, she has no choice but to model for their fashion show.  There is so much change in Yukari from the opening chapter,  where she is risk adverse and single-mindedly intent on her studies, to the end of this volume, where she is fabricating lies for her parents so she can spend more time with her new friends in their basement studio.  She is finally starting to assert herself, and to reject her mother’s stranglehold over her.  Finally, there is something that she cares enough about to fight against the carefully planned path her parents have laid out before her.  Is it in her best interests to get caught up in the lives of these creative and impulsive people?  Probably not, but the rush of being with them is intoxicating, and she’s not willing to let it go.

George is so far over her head that I worry for Yukari.  He is jaded and worldly, while she’s lived a very sheltered life.  No friends, no boyfriends, few connections outside of her family.  George is like a blazing torch, and she is drawn, against her will,  to his brilliance.  As I read the book this time around, I sympathized more with her confusion over her feelings for George.  She’s not accustomed to expressing her feelings or hanging out with a guy, and everything that George does sets her world on end.  He is intense and self-confident, and he rushes head-first into everything that life has to offer.  Yukari isn’t prepared for a guy like George, and now that she’s caught his attention, she isn’t sure how to keep it fixed firmly on her.  All of the emotional ups and downs of that first relationship are intensified by George’s vivid personality.  She doesn’t stand a chance against him, and I kept wondering if he was just dicking around with her from the moment he met her.

I love the art.  Ai Yazawa’s delicate, detailed character designs are distinctive and beautiful.  The clothing is also stunning, but how can you possibly have a story about fashion designers and have everybody wearing ugly clothing?  You can’t, and the clothing take on a life of their own.

If you enjoy drama and that pulse-pounding confusion of first love, give this series a shot.  If you enjoy comics with beautiful clothes and beautiful characters, give this series a shot.  If you are interested in manga and haven’t read any of it yet, this is a good, short (3 volume) title to get you started.  It’s still as pretty and as moving as it was 10 years ago.  As always, Vertical’s presentation is top notch, with a new translation and a bigger, bolder trim size than the previous version.

Grade:   B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Limit Vol 1 by Keiko Suenobu

 

 

Title: The Limit Volume 1

Author:  Keiko Suenobu

Publisher: Vertical

In stores October 9, 2012

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mizuki Konno is your typical high school junior at Yanno Prefectural High School. Like many teens her age she is studying hard for college and when she has some down time she likes to fuss over fashion and make-up. While she may not be one of the class elites, Mizuki is fortunate to be on the right side of her class’s idols. But that might not settle well with those who are in a similar academic status but not so lucky with their social lives.

Mizuki really isn’t a bad person. However she understands that she is one of the haves. And even if she only has so a strand to hold on to, that’s much more than the introverts or the socially inept.
On the day of the field trip, Mizuki’s position with the cool kids cannot be better. But now a good portion of her class are now firmly against her. While this "lower" clique may not be united, their hatred is much stronger than their differences. Unfortunately tragedy strikes in the form of a traffic accident. And now the class is split into two new groups…the living and the dead!

Almost the entire class has been wiped out and the five remaining girls are injured and lost in the wilderness. They also hate each other, and in a mix of Lord of the Flies with Heathers these girls begin to assert their wills against each other to try to survive while enacting a new class structure where looks and style is no longer the definition of influence.


Review:

When it comes to manga lately, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock.  I received this review copy, and wasn’t familiar with the title at all.  I love the cover, though, with the main protagonist standing defiantly, yet a bit battered, and staring boldly ahead.  The cover is very simple and eye-catching, and I immediately sat down to read the book.  Keiko Suenobu is also the author of LIFE, which was being released by  Tokyopop before they shuttered their offices.  I haven’t read any of that series, but after reading Limit, I am tempted to track it down.

Limit is a Lord of the Flies type story.  After their school trip goes horribly wrong and their bus crashes, Kanno and four of her classmates are stranded in the middle of the woods with only their wits to aid in their survival.  With their teachers and classmates dead, the five girls must juggle their fear and panic with their feelings for each other.  This is a diverse group of personalities, from the bullied Morishige, who has the only weapon and is brimming over with hate and resentment, to Kanno, who was part of the popular clique who made Morishige’s life hell at school.  Sakura, the ringleader of the clique, is dead in the bus, and Haru, one of the survivors, isn’t dealing with her best friend’s death very well.  This is a powder  keg of emotions just ready to blow, and only Kamiya realizes that it’s going to take more than luck to survive until they are rescued.  She immediately attempts to use diplomacy and get everyone to work together to ensure their survival, but she’s not having much luck.  There is a lot of resentment and so much ill-will to overcome, that things look bleak for our intrepid cast.

Limit focuses on the complex relationships the girls have formed over the years.  Angry Morishige is delighting in her sudden ascent to the top of the food chain; she’s got the weapon, and she hates everyone enough that she won’t hesitate to use it.  She casts everyone else in the pyramid beneath her, leaving Kanno and Haru to battle it out for the bottom rung of the ladder.  With the weapon, Morishige also controls the meager food supply the girls have foraged from the wreckage of the bus.  After being a bottom-feeder for so long, she is ecstatic to feel some kind of empowerment over the girls who constantly picked on her and made each school day so horrible. 

I thought that this was a great introduction to the series.  I reached the end and wanted more.  The relationship dynamics bubble with emotion and kept me engaged in the book from the first page.  Kanno isn’t an extremely likable character because she always takes the path of least resistance.  She’s a sheep to Sakura’s domineering personality, and once Sakura meets an untimely end, Kanno realizes how meaningless her other relationships truly are.  Avoiding confrontation, kissing up to Sakura, and trying to hold a middle ground so she wasn’t bullied didn’t endear her to her classmates, she is learning the hard way.

I love Keiko Suenobu’s expressive artwork.  I never had to guess how her characters felt as they were maneuvered from one panel to the next.  Emotions are deftly rendered here, and the visuals are as compelling as the prose.  This is a great start to a series that will appeal to fans of conflict driven stories.  I don’t know how the girls are going to reconcile their feelings for each other and still survive all alone in the wilderness, with no food and only a cave for shelter.  I am looking forward to the next volume!

Grade:   B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Shift by Kim Curran

Title:  Shift (Strange Chemistry)

Author:  Kim Curran

Publisher:

Shift (Strange Chemistry) DIGITAL

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.


Review:

When I discovered that Angry Robot Books would be launching a YA imprint, I was excited to check out the Strange Chemistry line.  Every book under this imprint looks good.  I don’t think there can ever be enough books released with fantasy or sci-fi elements, so I was eager to start digging into the launch titles for Strange Chemistry.    First up for me is Shift; I found this one intriguing because protagonist Scott learns that he is a Shifter, and that he can undo decisions he’s made if they turn out to be bad ones.  It’s like having a non-expiring do-over card, except for those occasional unpleasant consequences.   Yes, you knew there would be consequences for using a power that cool, and after seeing the heartbreaking handiwork of one of his Shifts, he decides that maybe it’s not such a great ability after all. 

I thought the pacing for Shift was great.  I powered quickly through this book, and once I got a few chapters in, I didn’t want to put it down.  I wanted to learn more about Scott’s ability and the world he lived in.  This is a great blend of super-hero comic with equal parts futuristic thriller and murder mystery tossed in for good measure.  There were even a few pages that completely freaked me out and got my heart pounding in fear as Scott got himself into some horrific and scary situations.  For a kid who has no idea what he’s doing, he sure manages to get himself into so much trouble!  Life-threatening trouble, too!  I still can’t believe that he made it to the last page relatively unscathed.  That just proves that luck is just as important as mondo-powerful supernatural abilities.

Scott discovers that he has the power to undo decisions he’s made quite by accident.  He is showing off in front of a bunch of his classmates, and his uncharacteristic flash of bravado is just about to get him killed.  Until he wishes with everything he has that he hadn’t decided to act like a moron.  He’s never been cool, and he never will be cool, even if he completes the dare, so he wonders why he even bothered.  Being a pancake after falling from a utility pole just doesn’t seem worth it.  He regrets that he wanted to impress a pretty girl he’s never seen before, and now it looks like it’s going to be the death of him. 

I loved Scott.  He’s self-depreciating, and once he started getting over himself, he is a fun character.  Thrown into circumstances far beyond his control, he finally starts coming into his own.  As he begins to understand the consequences of  both doing and un-doing his decisions, he begins to accept some the less favorable choices he’s made.  He can no longer blame others for his poor judgment, and that helps to give him the kick in the pants he needs to start growing up.  People can live or die by his actions, and there is no blaming anyone else when he messes up.  Instead, he has to put on his big-boy pants and fix the chaos he’s caused.  He needs to risk himself to save his friends from the harm he has caused them, and this time, a simple shift isn’t going to cut it.  For a big nerd, Scott’s take charge attitude impressed me, and his determined charge to the end of the book kept me completely engaged in the story.

I had some quibbles with Shift, but they weren’t enough to ruin the book for me.  Many of the secondary characters are one-dimensional and yawn inducing stereotypes.  I would have liked more depth to all of the secondary characters.  Overall, though, this is a fun read, and it got me geeked to read more releases from Strange Chemistry.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Carmen Rodrigues, Author of 34 Pieces of You

Carmen Rodrigues is the author of 34 Pieces of You, an emotionally powerful read that focuses on the aftermath of a popular high school girl’s death.  I could not put this book down, and I was thrilled when Carmen agreed to answer a few of my questions.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for 34 Pieces of You?

[Carmen Rodrigues] 34 PIECES OF YOU actually started as a what if writing prompt. To create the prompt, I let my mind wander for an hour, thinking about all the different situations teens encounter. During that wandering, I remembered a few news stories I read in the late eighties/early nineties about teenagers who made and carried out suicide pacts. I wondered what would happen if two teenagers did make this pact but one of them survived. What kind of guilt would that teen have? Where would life go from there?

This led me to writing about a girl (Sarah) who wakes up in a hospital bed to learn that her best friend (Ellie) has died from an overdose, which she has survived. As I began to discover more about the characters that inhabited this world, I asked myself other questions:

Did Ellie commit suicide or was it an accident?

If suicide, did Sarah also attempt to kill herself?

Regardless of accidental or intentional overdoses, how did these girls get here? What were their communities and families like?

How do toxic friendships, particularly those that develop out of proximity like the relationship between Ellie and Sarah, affect the other kids on that block?

Answering these questions led to a complex story that spanned five years. Around fifty pages in, I realized that the story was inhibited by Sarah’s limited perspective. That’s when I began to write from two additional POVs–Sarah’s younger sister, Jessie, and Ellie’s older brother, Jake. Ellie’s pieces—as they are now–came much later.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Sarah?

[Carmen Rodrigues] Sarah is seventeen years old. She’s doing her best to navigate the broken world she inherited. The three words that describe her are young, confused, and disconnected.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Jess would never have in her bedroom?

[Carmen Rodrigues] Jess is simple. She has a good heart–one that’s inclined to take care of others. In this novel, she loses the last of her childlike innocence. To me, that’s what makes her story so tragic. She would never have a hair straightener, cigarettes, or high heels in her bedroom. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Jake had a theme song, what would it be?

[Carmen Rodrigues] Break on Through (To The Other Side) by The Doors. Jake loosely references this song in the novel. If you check out the lyrics, you’ll see that it accurately sums up many of his struggles. Here is the opening stanza:

You know the day destroys the night 
Night divides the day 
Tried to run 
Tried to hide 
Break on through to the other side 
Break on through to the other side 
Break on through to the other side, yeah

At the end of the novel, though, The Winner Is by Michael Danna and Devotchka conveys the silent hope that is present in Jake’s recovery.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Carmen Rodrigues] I’ve read a lot of wonderful young adult novels this year–Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (gorgeously written); Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (sweet and heartfelt); The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (smart, funny, relevant)—but the last book to knock my socks off was The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. It’s a nonfiction book about authenticity, courage, and wholehearted living. The research is compelling. The writing is humorous and sincere. I’ll probably read this book once a year. I recommend it to everyone.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Carmen Rodrigues] The best place to find me is at my web site: www.carmenrodrigues.com.

From there, you can access my Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook profiles. Plus, you can read the first 36 pages of 34 PIECES OF YOU.  For a visual/interactive experience of 34 PIECES OF YOU, visit www.pinterest.com/34piecesofyou.

[Manga Maniac Café]  Thank you!

34 Pieces of You is available now.  You can purchase it from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital.

Review: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

 

Title: Keep Holding On

Author:  Susane Colasanti

Publisher: Viking

Keep Holding On – DIGITAL

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Noelle’s life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn’t know how much she gets bullied, or the ways her mom neglects her. Noelle’s kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her, she’s terrified. Surely it’s safer to stay hidden than to risk the pain of a broken heart. But when the bullying of her classmate takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it’s time to stand up for herself – and for the love that keeps her holding on.

Review:

This book brought back a lot of unpleasant memories, and I was going to put it down and return it back to the library unread.  I remember what it was like to be mercilessly picked on in school, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted a refresher course.  I became invested in Noelle’s unhappiness, though, and wondered what she would be able to do to change her circumstances.  In addition to having to deal with bullies at school, she also has a nightmare at home.  Her mother has been raising her alone, and she is resentful of Noelle.  She blames her daughter on her own discontent with her life and her dead end job.  She takes her frustrations out on Noelle, and doesn’t care for her.  There is never enough food in their cramped rental unit, and her mother’s indifferent eats away at her. 

With all of bullying and her mother’s neglect, Noelle feels that she is unlovable.  She finds herself in a relationship with a popular boy who is obviously taking advantage of her.  He has sworn her to secrecy about their clandestine encounters. They spend the entire time making out.  This wasn’t surprising, considering Noelle’s dysfunctional home life.  Conversation isn’t something that happens at her house, so why would she expect to actually talk to the boy she has convinced herself that she’s in love with?

When a cute classmate shows some interest in her, Noelle freaks out.  Yes, she likes Julian, and yes, she’s dreamed of getting together with him, but she won’t kid herself.  Noelle is one of the poorer kids attending her high school, and Julian is from another world.  His parents are wealthy, and she just won’t fit into his life.  Despite her messed up emotions, Noelle did begin to frustrate me here.  Matt was clearly using her, he refused to be seen with her in public, and yet she stubbornly refused to admit to herself that he was taking advantage of her.  Their “relationship” didn’t make her happy; it made her miserable that she had to keep it a secret from even her only friend, and yet she continued down a path that she knew was wrong.  Instead of giving Julian a chance, she turned him down, without even giving him a chance to prove himself to her.  I understood her fear of becoming emotionally involved with a guy she was afraid would break her heart, but I was still disappointed that she refused to even try to be his friend.

I found Noelle easy to relate to.  Her anger and unhappiness pulsed convincingly on every page.  Her tormenting classmates and her mother left her feeling helpless, without any sense of empowerment or self-confidence to help her cope.  To avoid becoming targets themselves, her former friends abandoned her.  She quickly got used to keeping her deepest, most genuine feelings repressed.  How do you continue, day after day, to go on, knowing that nothing is going to get any better?  For Noelle, salvation lies in the future, after she graduates and escapes from her small town.  I understood this, having once felt that way myself.  When you are that unhappy, it’s hard to contemplate that things will ever get better, unless there is a drastic change in your surroundings.  Noelle copes by counting down the days until she graduates, crossing them off on the calendar in her room.  She doesn’t think that her life will begin until after she’s finished with high school and the bullies who make her days nightmarish.  Everything seems so big and insurmountable when you are wrapped up in your own personal misery, and getting through every day is a challenge.  Susane Colasanti’s narration is painfully convincing, so it was not surprising to discover that she was the victim of bullying herself.

Keep Holding On managed to end on an up-beat note, as Noelle does find an inner strength and peace of mind to keep her moving forward.  I wasn’t as convinced by the ending as I was with the rest of the book,  but any other ending would have been a complete downer.  I am glad that Noelle was able to find the tenacity to face each day head on and begin living her life, instead of running away and hiding from it.

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

Interview with Lisa Luedeke, Author of Smashed

Lisa Luedeke is the author of Smashed, which releases today from Margaret K. McElderry Books.  Lisa stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Lisa Luedeke] Yoga- loving

Mama-doting

Can’t get her face out of a book;

Loves her quiet, her woods, her lake,

Her family & friends,

Just give her that writing time

And all will be fine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Smashed?

[Lisa Luedeke] Sure. It’s really a story about trying to fill a hole in your life, in your emotional life, and making the wrong choices as you try to do that. Katie’s dad, an alcoholic, abandoned her family when she was twelve, and her mother is never around. She’s basically on her own, with the help of a couple of good friends, and a mentor in her high school field hockey coach, but it’s not enough. After she gets involved with bad-boy Alec, Katie tries to get herself back on track, but one night she makes a mistake she can’t take back, and when lies follow to cover it up, things get out of control.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Lisa Luedeke] When I was seventeen, I was in a terrifying car accident. My best friend and I were asked by a teacher to go on a school errand. We were in my friend’s car and he was driving. It was a cold, wet, November day, and a slushy snow was building up on windy back road in Maine. My friend was a careful driver; we were only going 30 miles an hour—I remember looking at the speedometer. But as we were going around a corner, the slush took hold of the wheels of the car and pulled us into the other lane, just as a car was coming toward us. My friend tried to gain control of the car, to get us back on our side of the road, and we started to turn in the right direction. The last thing I remember was thinking we were going to miss that car by an inch…When I came to, there was blood splattered down the front of my sweater and I thought my friend might be dead.

We were both fine, but that moment wouldn’t leave me for many years. Writing about a difficult time can be cathartic, but I didn’t want to write about that accident. I have no interest in writing memoir. And that particular incident didn’t have the characteristics of a compelling story—it was simply bad luck, bad timing, bad weather.

So I began to do what-ifs…What if an accident was someone’s fault? What if the driver was drunk? And what if the passenger, who was hurt, was not a friend, but someone the driver didn’t even like? Someone she was trying to get away from? As I asked these questions, a situation emerged that interested me, and that’s what I need—a situation that is complex enough to keep me interested as a writer. Then I ask myself, who would find themselves in this particular situation? For me, characters emerge from conflict.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Katie?

[Lisa Luedeke] Self-reliant

Lonely

Tough

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alec would never have in his pocket?

[Lisa Luedeke] A love note

Bubble gum

A coupon

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Katie’s single most prized possession?

[Lisa Luedeke] Her field hockey stick

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Lisa Luedeke] First, the natural world. I think and write best while I’m hiking or walking in the countryside near my home. When I’m out there, I problem solve my current story. Mull over whatever it is that I’m struggling with. Everything begins to get unstuck, to flow, and then a scene will come to me. If I like it, I rehearse it again and again in my mind, and when I get home I’m ready to write.

Robert Cormier & S.E Hinton’s YA books had a great influence on me, particularly The Chocolate War and The Outsiders. I wanted to write books that had the heart of Hinton’s books and the edge of Cormier’s. Cormier’s gone now, but he’s still one of the best writers in the YA field. Interestingly, neither of them wrote about girls (Cormier did in one book, but said he found it very difficult.) I knew I wanted to honestly portray girls’ lives in the pages of my books.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ideally, a long walk to get a scene flowing—then a big mug of dark coffee and a quiet space. But I’m learning to write on airplanes!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Lisa Luedeke] Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. It’s an absolutely amazing historical novel about a slave girl from Rhode Island who’s sold to a family in New York City during the American Revolution. I loved the character with my whole heart, and the narrative is gripping—but I also learned a great deal about the revolution and slavery during that time period.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Lisa Luedeke] From my earliest memories, I loved to read. Everything. The Witch Who Wasn’t was an early favorite, though I can’t find it now; I think it’s out-of-print. Go Ask Alice was the book that turned me on to YA literature when I was ten.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ashtanga yoga, hiking, skiing, swimming, reading, hanging out with friends & family.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Lisa Luedeke] Lisaluedeke.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Luedeke/224769940928276

lisa.lue@hotmail.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Smashed from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital

Win Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry!

Thanks to Harlequin Teen, I have a shiny new copy of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry for one of you to win!  Here’s more information about the book, in case you haven’t heard about it yet.

About the book:

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

You can learn more about author Katie McGarry by visiting her website.

Want to win a copy?  Good!  It’s as easy as filling out the widget below.  Extra entries for following.  US and Canadian mailing addresses only.

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Didn’t win? You can order a copy of Pushing the Limits from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.