Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Love Blind's release & Why I'm Grateful for Jolene

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! The day for LOVE BLIND's release is finally here. The journey of this book has been a long one, and if you'd like to read more about it, you can do that here. Suffice it to say, we first wrote this book in a series of back and forth emails and a Word doc in 2011 before I'd ever met my collaboration partner Jolene Perry in real life. 

A few things you need to know about the book: 
1. This is probably the "lightest" book I've ever written. (Though fair warning, everything is relative and I'm me so don't think it's all kittens and unicorns. SLJ said, "it hits hard, exploring issues such as depression, homosexuality, and loss of virginity." But truthfully, it's quite a bit lighter than my other books. Oh Christa. )
2. I wrote Kyle's part, Jolene wrote Hailey's part. We wrote a lot on top of each other's parts. It was messy and fun and Jolene is the easiest collaboration partner a person could ask for.
3. This is the closest to a "happily ever after" that I've ever gotten. It was not really meant to be a love story when we started off. If you ever meet me in real life, I'll tell you how much this book changed from start to finish. (Fair warning again: "love story" is a relative term for me and I doubt anyone will be doing any swooning. I'm not really the swoon kind of writer. Poor Jolene. She writes a lot of swoony guys, and this time I made it next to impossible for her. Heh.)

And now I will make a list of my absolute favorite things about Jolene and why I'm so lucky to have her in my life:

1. Every time I call her she's in the midst of doing some project for someone else. I have never known anyone who is so willing to step in and lend a hand to whatever endeavor. 
I have no idea what Jo is doing here but this is not unusual behavior.
 2. Jolene is one of probably 4 liberals in her town in Alaska. She's married to a dude who prosecutes sex crimes and they are a real-deal love story. Also, while I'm wandering around Chicago walking my dog and taking my kids to the library, Jo and her husband are doing things like snow machining. Or whatever. ALASKA!
This is Jo & her husband. They live in this place with woods!
3. Jolene writes love stories, but more importantly Jolene writes about girls who make bad choices and who have a million reasons why they should probably give up and then they figure out a way to keep going. This is her central project as a writer and if you know anything about Jolene's relationship with her daughter, you know that lifting that girl up and making her believe that anything/everything is possible is Jo's central project in life.

I mean, for real, aren't they the cutest?
4. Jolene is one of the most chatty and warm people I have ever met. We have made our way to SCBWI in LA for several years because it's the halfway point between Alaska and Chicago and Jo manages to draw in everyone. She is hilarious and infectious and incredibly creative and easy to talk to. And probably the most important of all, she is up for whatever nonsense I am dropping at her feet.
With Jolene at the Bean when she decided to drop her life and finally come meet me here. 
So here's the book description:

Shy high schooler Kyle Jamieson and Hailey Bosler, a musician with degenerative blindness, team up to tackle a bucket list of greatest fears in this compelling novel that explores what it means to take risks.

It starts with a list of fears. Stupid things really. Things that Hailey shouldn t worry about, wouldn t worry about if she didn t wake up every morning with the world a little more blurry. Unable to see her two moms clearly. Unable to read the music for her guitar. One step closer to losing the things she cares about the most. 

For a while, the only thing that keeps Hailey moving forward is the feeling she gets when she crosses something off the list. Then she meets Kyle. He mumbles when he talks at all and listens to music to drown out his thoughts. He's loaded down with fears, too. So Hailey talks him into making his own list. 

Together, they stumble into an odd friendship, helping each other tackle one after another of their biggest fears. But fate and timing can change everything. And sometimes facing your worst fear makes you realize you had nothing to lose after all.

And here's where you can buy it: IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, Amazon



Monday, May 9, 2016

These Things I'm Afraid Of...

In honor of tomorrow's release for LOVE BLIND and because I've been thinking a lot about the nature of fear lately and how it can hold us back, I thought today I would put out into the world my current writer fear list as it has been carved out by the last six months of my life:


CHRISTA'S FEAR LIST

1. Becoming irrelevant. The thing about working in YA is that sometimes people seem to be constantly selling books or releasing books or what-have-you. And while everyone in my real life is all: "you have another book out already?", most people in my writing life are like: "what's next?" There is something about writing for teenagers/readers who devour books in a night that makes you feel constantly on the brink of being forgotten if you don't have the next thing scheduled, being planned, being promoted, etc. After LOVE BLIND, I don't have a real plan. I have some ideas, I have something written that may work out, but maybe it won't. Regardless, it is going to be a few years at least until that sorts itself out. My top notch brain recognizes that if you write memorable books, then you can have no upcoming release or real plan and still be relevant for years. My dumb insecure brain thinks: well, I guess you're one step closer to unremarkable mediocrity. Nice going, C.

2. Chickening out. The more you read reviews, the more you see people get upset about certain things, the more you let judgment and criticism get beneath your skin, the harder it is to take risks with your writing. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to navigate a minefield. My kids are getting to the age where their friends are reading my books and there is a very large part of me that wonders how they'll be impacted, or if their parents read my books, is our house suddenly going to become the house of "that lady who writes about teenage sex"? You'd think because Carrie and I talk about this regularly on the podcast, we don't worry about it, but you'd be wrong. A lot of time we feel like we're the only two people in an oasis of well-meaning readers who think we're mostly sleazy and inappropriate. 

3. Writing to please. It is damn difficult not to look at the books winning all the awards, hitting the bestseller lists, getting a huge marketing campaign, and think, well, I should just write a book like that. For example, I should just write a book with a slightly sad but likable girl and a hot misunderstood arty guy and have them find each other and their love make everything better. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME THAT I CAN'T DO THAT? The truth is: I don't want to write that book. Yes, I want all the money in the world dumped on me (because I have kids and like to get my haircut once a year), but every single time I try to write to please other people, I end up with a crappy book that I have to put away. I need to change the optics on this, write to please myself and readers will find me, but no lie, it is hard as hell to ignore the business side of publishing.

4. My real life destroying my writing life. The last six months have been a lot. A lot. My real life has bled all over my writing life and I haven't been able to open a document since January. It's not time, it's being incapable of creating a narrative world because the real world is just too damn hard right now. I should be able to do this. I should be able to compartmentalize, but I cannot. And there is nothing more paralyzing than the thought: what if it doesn't get any better?

I have no solutions to any of this. My friend Barb would tell me that I just have to sit with it all until the fear goes away. Maybe that's it. Or maybe something will change and I'll be able to move forward again, but as it stands, I'm mostly afraid. Which is a strange place to be the day before a release, but somehow I think Kyle (the character I wrote in LOVE BLIND) would be right there with me.

About the book:


Shy high schooler Kyle Jamieson and Hailey Bosler, a musician with degenerative blindness, team up to tackle a bucket list of greatest fears in this compelling novel that explores what it means to take risks. 

It starts with a list of fears. Stupid things really. Things that Hailey shouldn t worry about, wouldn t worry about if she didn t wake up every morning with the world a little more blurry. Unable to see her two moms clearly. Unable to read the music for her guitar. One step closer to losing the things she cares about the most. 

For a while, the only thing that keeps Hailey moving forward is the feeling she gets when she crosses something off the list. Then she meets Kyle. He mumbles when he talks at all and listens to music to drown out his thoughts. He's loaded down with fears, too. So Hailey talks him into making his own list. 

Together, they stumble into an odd friendship, helping each other tackle one after another of their biggest fears. But fate and timing can change everything. And sometimes facing your worst fear makes you realize you had nothing to lose after all.


P.S. I am doing a book event/launch party at Anderson's in LaGrange on May 20 at 7pm for this book, so if you want a signed copy, give them a call. 





Monday, January 11, 2016

On Rock Bottoms...

Today marks the publication of my third YA novel, OTHER BROKEN THINGS. There's a lot of me in this book, a lot of honesty and hurt and acceptance and trying to figure out how to fix yourself. Release day is usually my reminder day, the day I remember that I'm doing the greatest job in the world because I get to be creative and make art. An auspicious and happy time for most authors.

But when I think about this book and all that went into it, I can't help but think about rock bottoms (which is maybe not the most happy thing for a release day, but stick with me, we'll get there).

In doing research on alcoholics, "rock bottoms" came up a bunch of times. The questions were different but all circled around the same thing: what made you decide you were done drinking? when did you realize the only way out was up? what happened that you were finally able to see how sick you were?

As I told Nat's story in OTHER BROKEN THINGS, I thought about how in a certain way, we all have rock bottoms. Sometimes they're extreme and sometimes they're a series of steps spiraling down until you realize that everything is dark and hard and you can't see anymore and you can't remember where you're going or what you're doing and why you were even doing it in the first place.

When I examine my own life, I think about the blanket of regrets that I could wrap around myself. At one point or another, I have been a crap parent, a crap daughter, a crap wife, a crap employee, a crap sister, a crap student, a crap friend. I am what someone wittier than I would call "the okayest human alive."

At times I have wanted the people who love me the most to go away because they were also the people who saw me at my worst. I've often thought that it isn't the people who won't forgive you that are so hard to deal with, it is the ones who will, because they are the ones who have witnessed you at your absolute suckiest and isn't that a reminder we could all do without. (Though I know Carrie, Asher, and Jolene would tell me that those people also have seen you at your absolute best.)

Regret can become its own rock bottom, in the same way that resentment can—they are both diseases that are incurable if you hold on to them, and undoubtedly only toxic to the person feeling them, not the objects of their regret/resentment. And yet these emotions are hard to shake.

And so I think about this past year and how in a way it has felt like a rock bottom: I have failed professionally more than I have succeeded, I have dropped balls in my personal relationships, I have stumbled a lot as a parent, more than I thought I could. But here is the thing. All these failures, they weren't really a rock bottom (even though they felt like it at the time). Because they didn't compromise the things I value the most: compassion, integrity, forgiveness, honesty, grace.

My Natalie in OBT has given up the things she cares about the most: a true rock bottom for her. But even then, she finds a way out. Something I realized is possible for us all. Even if we do lose our way, even if we are truly at the bottom and have had our values compromised, everything keeps moving. Possible still exists. Above all, I have learned that tomorrow will be different than today, even if it's just the tiniest bit. There is a way out. It is hard and it is up, but as Glennon says, "We can do difficult things." Particularly if we know that we aren't doing those things alone.

Why yes, my stepsister did put my face on a Wonder Woman magnet.


So here's the cover and the blurb and buy links and all the sell-y stuff that I must do because it's my release day.


Natalie’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like getting in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately, her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life, and things start looking up. Joe is funny, he’s smart, and he calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming, but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.


Now, in order to make a different kind of life, Nat must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.


(And because I work at Anderson's Bookshop, you can call over there and get a signed copy shipped to you!)

Thank you always for all your love and support!