Congratulations to Anna Schaeffer who won last week’s free download of Glass Girl! Are you ready to try again? I have a feeling your odds will be better this time so don’t forget to register for the drawing! Only twelve days left until the release of Perfect Glass!
Best of luck to you on finals!
Love, meRead More
I’ll run three giveaways (One starts today! One starts Monday, May 20! And one starts Monday, May 27!) Winners will be chosen on Thursdays (May 16, May 23, and May 30).
To enter the first drawing, follow this link!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note – this is my first time to use Rafflecopter, so please comment below if you have trouble registering for the drawing and I’ll work on it!
Thanks for all you’ve done for me!
And she’s thoughtful—when we chat by phone, she always throws a y’all into the conversation in my honor. Although her Canadian/Chicagoan/New Yorker accent makes ‘y’all’ sound a little different. And I hardly ever say y’all anyway, so it’s especially funny.
Her first novel, Swimming Through Clouds, releases June 1. Look at this gorgeous cover!
Can’t wait for you to read this book. It’s intense and emotional, but also incredibly hopeful. You will pull for her narrator, Talia, and you’ll fall for sweet, sensitive Lagan (pronounced La-gone).
Here’s the synopsis—
When high school cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, slowly revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.
I love that Lagan writes notes on paper to Talia. I miss those days.
I invited Rajdeep over today (all the way from Locust Valley, New York) so you can get to know her before her release. You’ll want to follow her blog, her Twitter, and her Facebook, too, to get all the latest news about her upcoming releases.
So who is Rajdeep Paulus? It’s such a beautiful name. What does it mean?
“Rajdeep,” someone yelled back.
“Rajdeep, it is.”
And that’s how I was named, more or less.
Determined to give a little glamour to the story, I researched its meaning so I could salvage my less than glorious beginnings. Raj comes from “Raja” which means “king,” and “deep” is the Punjabi word for “light” so at face value, my name means King of Light. Kinda corney, right? So the writer in me decided to tweak and nowadays, I tell people, “Since you asked, Rajdeep means ‘ruled by light.’ ”
Where did you grow up? Are you from a large family? Did you move around a lot?
I was born in India, celebrated my third birthday in New York City, and then we moved to Canada, where I spent most of my growing up years. Moved across the border from Windsor, Ontario to Livonia, Michigan around my senior year in high school. I don’t have a huge immediate family, but I grew up surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. Family is very important to me.
You approach life with a great sense of humor. Where does that come from?
I love to laugh and I have lots of memories being the cause of laughter, simply because I’m a klutz and a tad blond under this dark head of hair. But, early on, I think I just learned it’s a lot more fun to laugh at yourself. Life’s short. Hafta laugh!
But I’m a crier, too. Movies, songs, or when someone shares his or her story. Doesn’t take much.
Were there things in your childhood that taught you to be resilient and to roll with the punches? How are you teaching your girls to be resilient?
My parents always approached life with an attitude of “when life knocks you down, get back on your feet and try again.” My husband and I try and teach our girls the same thing. Life’s about second chances. And third, and fourth and so on. Grace is key. To give and receive—the constant challenge.
What books from your childhood and teen years were most influential on the person you are today and the writer you are today?
I have always loved stories that pulled me into a world I’m not familiar with, but leave me feeling like I totally lived through the lives of the characters. Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and even stories like Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt and I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier were some of my favorites. And in more recent times, Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns really blew me away.
If you could do one thing over in your life, what would it be?
Wow! Just one! Truth is, as much as I think erasing or undoing a moment in my past would make for a prettier story or cleaner resume, I know that each moment has shaped me to become who I am today. A work in progress.
At times, I do wish I had spent more time with my grandmother while she was alive. Some things you can’t get back. Like time. Miss her a lot.
Do you have a secret ambition that not many people know?
Haha. So many!
I’ll narrow my list down to
1. Official Taste Tester for Godiva.
2. Personal Assistant to Denzel Washington (Laura here . . . I was glad to find out Mississippi Masala is one of Rajdeep’s favorites. I loved this early one of Denzel’s.)
and 3. And of course, ballgirl to the Chicago Bulls would be a dream come true!
What’s the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Forgiven me. Given me grace. Every day. That would be my hubs. Yep. Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
What makes you sad?
A lot of things. But I think near the top of my list are children being trafficked for sex, a person who refuses to forgive, and when I forget to call my mom.
What’s your favorite room in your house and why?
My bedroom. Because I love sleep! And dreaming.
Some of my favorite scenes come to me in my dreams.
And I love my red blanket. [Thanks, Mom!] I also love the paint on the wall. It’s a sandy pink on two walls, a deep purple on a third, and the signature wall has a sponged combination of the colors. I worked on it for a whole day and I love how it turned out, my one canvas if you will.
The walls have portraits from our wedding day, as well as a fun collage from our ten year anniversary. It’s also the messiest room in our house (the last frontier, we call it) but it’s where hubs and I have some our best heart to hearts. And my youngest snuggles with me every morning. And I love my pillows. I could go on…
What’s the view out of the window closest to you right now?
What a fun question! It’s a drizzly Monday morning in Glen Cove, where I can see cars whizzing by on School Street. I’m at the Gly Cafe, where I do most of my writing.
What’s one piece of clothing you can’t live without?
My royal blue tank top.
Is there something you did as a kid you regret? Want to apologize for it right now?
Haha. Sorry baby sis for the time I ratted you out to our friends about the cotton ball incident. Yeah. Enuf sed!
Do you think writing is fear-inducing? Or is it all a rush?
Neither, really. I think rereading a scene I finished can be a rush. While I’m writing, I try not to get caught up in the emotion of it because that slows the flow. And fear hasn’t played a factor, yet. But then again, I haven’t exactly lived the deadline-driven writer’s life, yet.
Tell me about the germ of the idea for Swimming Through Clouds. What made you want to write about a family in a dark crisis? Have you known people in a situation as dire as this one?
The truth is when I started writing Swimming Through Clouds, I didn’t know where I was headed. I had already completed my first Young Adult manuscript, in which the main character had a secret he kept from his best friend. So as I started Swimming, I was searching for that secret, a story that made sense to keep in the dark. I’m hoping I pulled it off.
Are there places or names in your book that come from your real life?
Nothing except for the location—the suburbs of Chicago. I attended Northwestern University and lived there for a few years afterward. But that’s literally it.
What’s next on your horizon?
I’m working on a second book to follow Swimming Through Clouds. It’s Jesse’s story—he is the main character’s brother in Swimming.
On a personal note, I’m joining my hubs and bunch of friends on June 1st to face my first Tough Mudder! So the day Swimming Through Clouds launches, I’ll be up to my knees in mud! Hoping I make it out alive to hear what the readers think!
On behalf of all the Playlist Fiction authors and agents, let me say we’re really happy you’ve joined us and that we get to share in the joy of your debut book with you!
Thanks for having me, Laura. Still laughing about the fact that we sat next to each other in Chicago for a lit agency meeting, and I had no idea I’d be working with you and the Playlist Fiction team a month later! So happy to be part of the team!Read More
You’ve heard me say this before–learning how to break up with someone is an important lesson. (See Ray Charles and Yesterday.) It’s a necessary part of becoming an adult. It happens. It can be no big deal or it can be ugly and awful. It can happen early on in the relationship or it can happen in the dressing room of the church before you walk down the aisle. If you’re with the wrong person, the breaking up thing needs to happen before you say, “I do.” You’ll save yourself and your significant other heaps and heaps of heartache.
When I write on this blog about break-ups, I inevitably receive tons of emails about how to do the breaking up and how to survive the breaking up. I know it’s on your minds and I know you have a lot of questions about it.
Well, good news! Renee Fisher’s book on all things break-up released today and you’re going to want to get your hands on this ebook! It’s called Loves Me Not: Heartbreak and Healing God’s Way. Renee has been there. She’s giggled with her friends over that first crush. Thrilled to the pressure of her hand in his. Lost herself in his kiss. Dreamed about the proposal and imagined the day they’d become husband and wife. And she’s had those dreams come crashing down around her. Like sitting down to coffee with a best friend, Loves Me Not offers the hope and healing you need to see through to the other side. Renee guides readers through the confusion and pain of a shattered relationship and shows how to embrace the real love of your life: Jesus.
Renee and I chatted today about break-ups and I think her answers will make you want this book as a resource.
You write a lot about healthy relationships and dating. What prompted a “break-up” book?
I wrote Loves Me Not for a few reasons. After I released Not Another Dating Book, I met my husband, and I didn’t get to include our story in that book. This is good because I needed to be married for more than a year to realize how unhealthy some of my past relationships were. I can’t wait to encourage those who’ve had a bad breakup or lost a close friend. I want to help them deal with that heartbreak.
What’s your favorite chapter?
I hate to give the cliche author answer here, but it’s true that every chapter is my favorite! In each chapter I make a point or tell a story that is so personal to me. I can’t wait to hear what my readers say is their favorite chapter.
Are breakups getting more difficult and muddied with social media?
Absolutely! You see that him (or her) moving on and maybe you’re not. It hurts a lot. To this day, I’m only friends with one of my ex-boyfriends on Facebook for this reason.
Do breakups last longer or get dragged out these days because of the way we tend to “do” relationships online?
I guess it depends on how quickly you forgive those who hurt you or broke your heart. It’s easier when the breakup is mutual, of course.
What do you say to the girls who think they’ll never heal? What about the ones who think they might move on and marry someone else, but they’ll never really get over the one who broke their hearts?
I write about that in Chapter 3 – “Breaking up with Idols.” The guy I thought I was going to marry and spend the rest of my life with broke my heart in such a huge way that it took my health and I ended up in the hospital. If anyone understands the thought that life “can’t move on” it’s me. I hope my advice in the book about moving on will resonate with readers and that they’ll see that I’ve been there, too.
What can breakups teach us about life? Do they make us better spouses one day?
This question sums up the reason I wrote this book. When we lose our first love–God–it can be easy to place that pressure and unfair burden, including our own personal expectations, on someone. Breakups remind us that we need God’s help in every area of our lives. We can’t have healthy relationships apart from Him–even friendships. I do think that breakups have the potential to make us better spouses one day. I was able to learn from my own mistakes and it has made my relationship with my husband, Marc, richer.
Knowing what you know, do you think Tennyson was right? “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”?
I think that depends on the person. I wanted to get married a decade earlier than I did. In all those years of waiting, I would look at others who had loved and lost and even the heartache they were experiencing made me compare myself to them. Why hadn’t I had a love like that? Don’t do that! Live YOUR life and learn from the experiences given to you!
What do you make of the dating movement that says every time you give your heart to someone you’re losing your fullness that you were supposed to save for your spouse?
I write about this in the foreword of my book. Every decision we make in life can do one of two things–bring us closer to God or take us further from Him. If you’ve first given God your heart, mind, and soul, and strength, you’re going to make it through anything because your priorities are right.
Where is Jesus in a breakup? Does He understand? How can going through a breakup actually lead you back to Him?
Jesus is in every part of our life–we just have to acknowledge Him and seek Him first. Sometimes people use Jesus as a reason for a breakup and this can be very dangerous at times and it can be the right thing at times. My own breakups led me back to Jesus because they sent me to his Word and and to seeking His will for my life again. I became more prayerful about my future.
Where does personality fit in a breakup? Are there some personality types who handle breakups better than others?
It’s an important element. Some people have more difficulty dealing with the dramatic elements of a breakup–the conflict. Some people are able to breeze right through conflict. It helps when the breakup is mutual. I encourage my readers to think about what a Godly friendship looks like because the hope is that you’ll be able to see your ex in this way.
Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that makes me wonder if the author knew me in high school. It touches a little close to home. Dredges up a few too many pages of my awkward journal. The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is just such a book. And, bonus, one of her male characters, Chase, reminds me of Pony Boy in The Outsiders, so I got to relive the weird book crush I had in high school.
YA author Stephanie Morrill (author of the Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and the power behind Go Teen Writers) captured the true voice of the American teenage girl again in The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet. From the first line, I knew Ellie was a girl I wanted to know yesterday. She’s made of stubborn, sprinkled with wryness, and wrapped with heart.
Using the classic literary device of a story within a story, Morrill keeps readers turning pages. We get to live in the contemporary lives of Morrill’s high school characters while also traveling back in time to medieval Italy where Ellie’s friends have become players in a courtly scene. The story within the story reveals so much about how Ellie’s mind works and how she has absorbed and interpreted the drama in her life. Plus there’s the “can’t look away from the train wreck” aspect because we know that if Ellie’s friends get hold of her manuscript, they’ll be furious at how she has depicted them.
I loved so much about this book—the solid advice it gives for writers of any age who dream of publication, the presentation of a teenage girl who isn’t afraid to be an intellectual, and the characters (male and female) who sound real enough to be in any high school hall.
But what tugged at me most was the lesson Ellie learns (one I learned over and over) about how to balance speaking truth with protecting the feelings of others, and why it’s not always the best decision to keep secrets from everyone.
Morrill understands the delicate social lives of teen girls better than most writers these days. I highly recommend this book for girls looking for honesty about the awkward situations we find ourselves in so often in high school. Morrill doesn’t pull punches about things like deceiving parents and friends or keeping secrets, but she’s also gentle with Ellie and allows her to come to an awareness that’s uncommonly mature by the book’s end.
I can’t wait for the sequel to find out how Ellie’s writing life takes off and what happens to the characters she plucked from real life!
And, we’re lucky today because Stephanie joins us to answer some pressing questions.
Tell me why working with teen writers is so important to you.
It’s mostly selfish. They’re just FUN to be around. I love their energy and creativity. I love the unique way they view the world. So that’s the main reason.
It’s also partly because I was a teen writer, and I knew nobody in the industry. I didn’t even know anyone who worked in a bookstore. Yet I desperately wanted to write novels, so I learned everything by doing it wrong first. I learned about story structure by writing approximately a hundred stories that aimlessly wandered for about 50 pages before I threw in the towel. I learned about query letters after printing out my manuscript and mailing it to random publishers. I didn’t know a thing, and I didn’t know a soul that I could ask. So part of what motivates me is remembering how lost I was at that age, and the hope that I can help make a writer’s path smoother than mine was.
How old were you when you finished your first manuscript? What did you do with it? Did your high school teachers know this side of you? Did they encourage you?
I was 16 when I finished my first “novel.” It was only, like, 90 pages, so it wasn’t full length, and it was TERRIBLE. But I didn’t know that when I printed it out and mailed it to publishers. It’s now hidden on my hard drive. It wasn’t a waste at all though. I learned so much.
My high school English teacher was so supportive of me. When I was receiving my first round of rejection letters, she told our class that she believed I would be a published author someday. Those words meant so much to me because she was the first non-family member to express belief in me.
Is there a teen you mentor on whom Ellie is based?
Ellie’s personality is very similar to mine in middle and high school. I was so desperate to belong to a group, and I never did. I had great friends, of course, and I dated my now-husband all the way through high school, so I experienced a lot of acceptance. But there was so much rejection too. Like Ellie, I learned to use that real life rejection in my stories.
Writer Ellie is a conglomerate of the teens who hang out at GoTeenWriters.com. So many of them are destined for greatness, just like Ellie.
In the book, you surprise us all with a mentoring relationship. Without revealing the surprise, was this twist based on experience? Do you find that even mentors can be competitive to a fault?
Yes, that twist was a surprise to me the author as well. But upon reflection, it’s a truth about this business that I didn’t want to romanticize away. This writing business, this pursuit of publication, can do nasty stuff to a person’s insides. Writers who seem like your friends, who seem to want the best for you, can quickly turn on you if you become “more successful” than they are. And even though I try to be happy for people, the announcement of another’s success can bring out envy and anger within me as well.
The only thing I’ve ever found that compares to the emotion of it all is having a baby. When things were going well for me, like when I was holding my newborn baby or when I had one sprouting to life within me, I was THRILLED for others who announced their pregnancy. But when I was longing for another or wondering if it was ever going to be my turn to have one, an announced pregnancy could bring me to tears.
Why was Ellie hiding her manuscript and her intentions from her father, a published author?
While Ellie is enjoying the silent revenge on her friends, I think she also feels a bit ashamed of it as well. She knows it’s not the best way to handle her anger with these girls. Also, Ellie wants to prove her worth as a writer, apart from her father’s reputation, and she’s pretty keen on the idea of unveiling her true self in a blaze of glory.
I often say writing is made of fear. How did fear motivate and hinder Ellie? How do you see fear playing out in your own life as a writer?
Ellie fears being ordinary and amounting to nothing, of not living a full life. So fear is what motivates Ellie to start DOING something with writing, to start submitting it to contests and literary agents. But at the same time, fear also hinders her from finding good friends and from demanding respect from the boy she really likes.
As for me, with each stage of my career, I’ve found new fears crop up. What if my book fails? What if my sales numbers stink? What if people leave nasty reviews for me on Amazon? Sometimes the fears overwhelm me, and other times I’m able to keep them in check by remembering I can’t control that, I can only control doing my best work on a book.
What do you say to the teen writer who has been disappointed by the vagaries of the industry? The contest losses, the poor reviews or critiques, the rejections?
Now that I’ve looked up vagaries and know what it means, I think it’s really easy for all writers to get discouraged by the unpredictability of this industry. Books that are written horribly sometimes stay on the bestseller lists for months. I had an agent who rejected me rather harshly…but then when we met in person a few months later, completely fell in love with the story, and started pitching it like crazy to editors. My debut novel bombed a contest…and within the year was contracted with a publisher.
To survive this industry, you often have to put your blinders on and run YOUR race. You can’t control the whims or opinions of others. You have to just do your best with the stories on your heart.
Even in your writing career, you’ve seen huge changes in the industry. Are you hopeful about the future of publishing? How do you see the changes as beneficial to teen writers?
My agent describes publishing right now as “the wild west.” I have no idea where things are headed or what kind of device people will be reading books on next. What I know is I love to write, and I’ll be writing stories until the day I die.
I think in many ways the changes benefit teen and new writers. There are more ways than ever to break into the industry. There are so many good small presses, and ebooks make self-publishing affordable. I also think there are more “short cuts” to publication than ever before, which scares me a bit on their behalf.
What is the larger message of Ellie’s story? Is it something about identity or being true to one’s calling or the complications that arise when one keeps secrets or what? What should we learn from her experience?
The phrase in that book that started popping out to me was “real life.” Ellie constantly refers to people being in her real life or not her real life. And what I wanted her to understand is that it’s ALL real life. It all counts – friends on-line, the stories she’s making up, that cute boy who sits next to her in Algebra. They’re ALL her real life. The choices you make in middle school, high school, and college are woven into your adulthood, so you can’t just say to yourself, “Oh, it’s high school, it doesn’t matter.”
Until the very end, Ellie has a hard time figuring out which boy would be better for her. Even at the end, I don’t think she’s quite sure. Can’t wait until the sequel . . . What do you say to teen girls who struggle with distracting crushes and figuring out how to make good decisions about boys?
I was interested in boys from, like, day one of kindergarten. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was one of those girls who didn’t care, but I am who I am. I don’t know if that makes me a good or bad person to take advice from! Since I’ve been happily married for 9 years, and since I continue to fall deeper in love with my husband everyday, I suppose I’m not the worst person to take boy advice from.
As it relates to Ellie, I guess I would say you should feel comfortable being YOU around a guy you’re dating. Ellie really struggles with that (partly because she’s not totally sure about who she is yet) and it’s something I really struggled with too. But one of the nicest things my husband has ever said to me is, “I love you just how you are. I love every bit of you.” And I feel the same way about him. I don’t feel like I need to fix him, and he doesn’t try to fix me. There’s great freedom in that.
Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.
Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrill.com