Thursday, March 28, 2013

Haunted at 17: Celebrating Nova Ren Suma's New Novel "17 & Gone"

A few weeks ago in Boston at the AWP meeting I sat down in a packed lecture hall – hey, there were at least 11,000 attendees at this thing – and the girl next to me saw my name tag and said, “Are you the author Janet Fox? I’m Nova Ren Suma.” Well, for me, that was the ultimate fan-girl moment – in addition to being almost scary coincidence – because I loved Nova’s breathtaking IMAGINARY GIRLS to pieces. We shared some great conversations over the next two days, and she shared her excitement at the launch of her newest, 17 & GONE.

As part of her launch Nova invited people to write blog posts about being “Haunted at 17”, which I think is a hugely fun idea, so I decided to play. Here’s my post:

I was sure I’d met the love of my life at 17. He was funny, sweet, tall, good-looking but not creepily so. He played basketball, but not perfectly. He was a photographer, and for that, he had a real talent. He wrote me beautiful letters. He sang to me (off-key) over the phone. We were both madly in love and I’m betting my life would be way, way different now if...but I was haunted.

Haunted by the future.

Me at 17, taken by Mike
Because, at 17, secure and happy with Mike, I decided one day to drop him like a hot rock. And I dropped him for his at-the-time-but-not-to-continue best friend.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. But only in hindsight, from way down life’s road.

I said, “Let’s date other people.”

“Why?” he asked, bewildered.

I shrugged. He cried. I didn’t feel bad. In fact, I was kind of cruel. Ok, just cruel.

I didn’t tell Mike that I found John sexy, that I wanted to make out with him, that I was tired of the same old, same old, but that was the truth.

I dated John for about five minutes, and then someone else whose name I don’t remember, and about that time I realized that maybe I’d been an idiot, but it was too late. Mike had started dating someone else, and he stuck with her through the rest of high school and beyond.

Yeah, I dated other guys, but what I wouldn’t know – for years and years – was just how special Mike was and how special that relationship was and how rare it is to find that soul connection with someone. How rare to feel secure in someone else’s affections. How rare and special he was as a person.

When I was in college I met Mike again by chance. He was living in New York as I was, and making his slow way up the ladder to professional photography. We went out several times and I fell madly in love with him all over again, and then one day he dropped me like a hot rock.

“Why?” I asked, bewildered.

“Because I don’t love you,” he answered. I cried. He hung up the phone.

I was 17 all over again, and haunted by my stupid, stupid, stupid mistake.

Fast forward another three years and I still hadn’t met anyone else like Mike. I was lonely, dating out of boredom, random and sad. I was traveling through London and lo and behold ran into Mike on the street. We had dinner, with some people including the woman who would become his wife. He was still funny, sweet, amazingly talented, having hit the big time as a pro photographer, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him. My heart ached and ached. All through dinner I wanted to weep.

I was 17 all over again. Again.

Two years later I met my husband. He’s funny, sweet, tall, terrifically good-looking, and a talented scientist. We fell madly in love and have had a happy marriage for many years.

About five years into my marriage I learned that Mike died in London of a sudden heart attack, leaving a wife and two children.

And leaving me. Or, the 17-year-old me. Who still, in some small corner of her heart, grieves for what might have been, but, hey. I was stupid at 17.

Check out the fabulous blog posts "Haunted at 17" on Nova's blog: 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

POISON! A Debut Novel by Bridget Zinn

By now you have all heard (I truly hope) about the POISON blog tour for Bridget Zinn's debut novel. If you haven't, just know that Bridget was a young librarian and author who sold her book as she was battling cancer and did not live to see it come to fruition.

But it has, to the great credit of her family, friends and publisher, Hyperion. I never met Bridget. But I did hear about her while she was still alive, and many things about her story touched me in unexpected ways, maybe because I was at that time dealing with loss, maybe because it's tragic to lose anyone. But especially - just my personal opinion - because it's tragic to lose someone with talent, which Bridget clearly had in abundance.

So here's my story to commemorate Bridget's debut  - a story about "firsts".

My first publication happened when I was in third grade. Yes, that's where it began for me, and it made a difference. My teacher, Mrs. Weber, asked us all to write poems, and I wrote one called "October." I still remember loving the writing - just the writing - because fall is such a favorite time and I wanted to bring the coppery colors to life on the page. Well, Mrs. Weber must have liked my poem because she sent it into my town newspaper, and they published it.

I can still remember the smells and colors in the kitchen - all that black and white - when my mother called me in. She had the paper spread open on the counter and she was as surprised as I was.

"Look! You have a poem in the paper!" And she beamed, for once not hiding her gap-toothed smile behind her hand. "I'm so proud of you!"

My mother was a writer, never published. I found her children's stories - lovely stories - in her files after she died suddenly and before she could see my current success.

So this is a post about firsts and about loss and about success and about what it means to create something that lasts beyond. Mrs. Weber doesn't know she "birthed" a writer. My mother doesn't know she encouraged me to grow into an author. Bridget doesn't know what a wide span of love her creative spirit has inspired.

I can't wait to read POISON. For one thing, here's the Kirkus review that wins me over:

Don't let the title or cover fool you! No grimdark teen fantasy or angst-y heroines here; just a frothy confection of a fairy tale featuring poisoners, princesses, perfumers and pigs, none of whom are exactly what they appear (except maybe the pigs)...Good silly fun - a refreshing antidote to a genre overflowing with grit and gloom.

What do you think, my friends? Time we had some true spirited joy? I think so. And Bridget Zinn with POISON delivers us all.


Add Poison to your Goodreads pile:

Monday, March 11, 2013

An Interview With Nicole McInnes About Her Debut BRIANNA ON THE BRINK

Today it's my delight to showcase an interview with Nicole McInnes, the Class of 2k13 debut author of BRIANNA ON THE BRINK. This sounds like a wonderfully compelling novel that I can't wait to get my mitts on. Here's Nicole:

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, BRIANNA ON THE BRINK. Gosh, I love that cover. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

You bet! Here’s the scoop: Sixteen-year-old Brianna Taylor finds herself lost, alone and with a major surprise in store after a one-night-stand. Just when she’s got nowhere left to turn, help arrives from the one person who is closest to her big mistake, but accepting that help will leave Brianna forced to choose between clinging to the ledge of fear and abandonment – or jumping into the unknown where a second chance at hope might just be waiting.

As far as what inspired the book, I was just really intrigued by the idea of what it would be like to be “cast out” of the life you once knew – partially because of your own actions and partially because of circumstances beyond your control. Thinking about this made me wonder what it would be like if the only people willing to help you were the people you had treated most cruelly.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

I’ve been writing YA for the past several years. Before that, I was writing adult literary fiction, but what I kept hearing back from editors was that the stories felt more like they wanted to be YA, considering the ages of the characters, the voices, etc.

Can you describe your path to the publication of BRIANNA ON THE BRINK?

The path was long and bumpy, but once I figured out that I had a knack for YA, it smoothed out considerably. I have a wonderful, very editorial agent who helped me develop the first draft of BRIANNA ON THE BRINK into something that could be submitted to editors. Then, I was lucky to have the manuscript snapped up by Sylvie Frank, who has such a feel for YA and guided the manuscript on its final journey to published novelhood.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?


I love that - short and sweet, and oh, so true. Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I get huge amounts of joy from watching my kids grow up and from nurturing relationships with the most important people in my life. I plan to continue doing these things along with continuing to form new bonds with other readers and writers. The bookish life is such a rich one, filled with amazing people who love to read, write and talk about words and ideas.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I do! I’ve recently wrapped up a manuscript that I’m excited about, and I have yet another one in the works. All of this is happening against the backdrop of BRIANNA’s release, so it’s a busy time. Both the new manuscript and the work-in-progress are also contemporary young adult.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about BRIANNA ON THE BRINK?

Yes, thanks so much for asking! More information – including links to the various social media sites where I like to hang out - can be found at