Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington – Author Interview

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About the Book

Title: Love Songs & Other Lies

Author: Jessica Pennington

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: April 24th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Synopsis: It’s summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you’ll never forget.

Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.

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About the Author

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Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her books, where she’s currently finishing her second novel, WHEN SUMMER ENDS, out April 2019.

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Interview with Jessica Pennington

1. How did you get started as a writer?

I wrote poetry in elementary school and always dabbled with it, even through high school, but I really didn’t attempt fiction until about five years ago. I’ve always loved to write, I just never felt like I had a story to tell. Until I did!

2. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I feel like romance in general can be sort of underappreciated, and that’s mainly what I like to read. I think books that are fun and let you escape have a lot of value, especially for teens, and I’d really love to see it stop being a genre targeted just to girls, when the stories are really relevant to anyone discovering love for the first time. Boys fall in love too. I maybe didn’t answer this question, but I’m sticking with it!

3. What is your favorite childhood book?

I don’t tend to have favorites of anything—or if I do, it’s just my most recent favorite—but for childhood books a few of my favorites were anything by Roald Dahl and Shel Siverstein, Island of the Blue Dolphin, Graeme Base books, and I was obsessed with non-fiction books about animals as a kid!

4. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?

I can write just about anywhere if I have headphones, but I do have a writing space in my house. It’s new—I recently claimed my dining room as my office/study—so it’s lacking the ambiance I would normally like, but it has a giant picture window and the best natural light in my whole house. My dad just built me a huge barn door so I can close it off from the kitchen, and I’m excited to fill it with plants this summer. It has so much potential! But I also really love writing at one of my local libraries—there’s something awesome about being surrounded by books while writing one.

5. Tell us about your typical process for starting a new book.

I only attempted one book before Love Songs & Other Lies, so in a lot of ways I feel very unqualified to talk about processes, but for the most part I just start with a kernel of an idea. With Love Songs, it started with the breakup scene. And as much as I love to plot, and sort of obsess over having things worked out before I start writing, I almost always abandon my plotting or seriously change things along the way, as I get to know my characters. It’s all a bit haphazard, I suppose, but I like the organic way my stories tend to come together. Things build off of little details, and the story usually ends up better than I could have planned! I also have to kick things off with a writing playlist that sets the mood, because I can’t write without music on.

6. How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes I base them on something meaningful—like in Love Songs & Other Lies, Virginia is named (by her parents) after the song ‘Meet Virginia’ by Train. But in real life, Train is one of my favorite bands, and one of the first concerts I saw on my own while in high school. But very often I just look up what names were popular when the character would have been born, and go from there!

7. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?

Since I’ve become an author, I think the most difficult part is writing on deadline. It’s much different from writing something at your own pace, and there’s a lot of pressure attached to producing something creative on a fixed timeline. It’s definitely been an adjustment to get into that headspace!

8. Are you working on any new novels at this time? If so, can you share a little about them?

Speaking of deadlines! I wrote my second novel, When Summer Ends, this winter, and I just finished up copy-edits. It’s about Olivia, a cautious girl who decides to live summer by chance – dice rolls, coin flips and all – after her longtime boyfriend dumps her right before break; and Aiden, the former star pitcher who gets swept up in her plan while trying to find a new passion, after learning he’s losing his vision. It’s dual POV, which I love to write (and to read) and for anyone who thought Cam was swoony in Love Songs, just wait until you meet Aiden.

9. What is your favorite/most valued work that you have written?

I plead the fifth! Love Songs & Other Lies and When Summer Ends feel like my babies, and it’s too hard to pick. But it would definitely be one of those two, because the novel I wrote before Love Songs was pretty horrid. It was a paranormal romance, and the first story I ever attempted, and just very out of my wheelhouse. Love Songs and When Summer Ends both have big pieces of me in them, so each is my favorite in its own way, but I think my debut will always feel really special to me.

10. Can you give us a sneak peek about your upcoming novel?

It’s set in the same town as Love Songs & Other Lies, but while Love Songs only took place partly in Riverton, When Summer Ends spends all of its time in the Michigan beach town. And it’s a bit of a love letter to how amazing Michigan is in the summer—canoe trips, dune hikes, nights under the stars—it was really fun to get to delve further into my love of beach towns! I seriously can’t wait to share more about this one—it will be out April 2019 (but you can add it to Goodreads now!)

Excerpts from the Book

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Author Interview with Liz Coley & Review of The Captain’s Kid

I’m thrilled to have author Liz Coley here for an interview. I met Liz at the Indiana state library conference after her YA novel, Pretty Girl-13 was chosen as the winner of the Eliot Rosewater Award. (More on the Eliot Rosewater Award here.)

Liz is a brilliant writer, but also very humble and down-to-earth. I must say I was so nervous to meet her, but it was awesome! She is a definite rock-star in my opinion. Pretty Girl-13, her first novel for young adults was suspenseful & excellent. Liz’s newest book, The Captain’s Kid, was released in October 2016. I’ll be interviewing her about the book, as well as including my review below. I hope you enjoy “meeting” Liz as much as I did! And, please, let me know what you think about The Captain’s Kid. You can purchase it from Amazon here.

About Liz Coley (from lizcoley.com)

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Liz Coley has been writing long and short fiction for teens and adults for more than ten years. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and several speculative fiction anthologies: The Last Man, More Scary Kisses, Strange Worlds, Flights of Fiction, Winter’s Regret, and You Are Not Alone.

In 2013, psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 was released by HarperCollins and HarperCollins UK in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. Foreign translations have been published in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Czech, Slovakian, and Traditional Chinese. German and Simplified Chinese are in the works.

Liz lives in Ohio, where she is surrounded by a fantastic community of writers, beaten regularly by better tennis players, uplifted by her choir, supported by her husband, teased by her teenaged daughter, cheered from afar by her two older sons, and adorned with hair by her cats Tiger, Pippin, and Merry.

Liz invites you to follow @LizColeyBooks on Twitter and Instagram, like Liz Coley Books on Facebook, and visit her website at lizcoley.com, where you can watch the Pretty Girl-13 book trailer, download editing tips, and read her confessional blog postings “Scenes from a Life.”

Author Interview with Liz Coley

Question 1. The Captain’s Kid is a much different genre than your previous novel, Pretty Girl-13. How did you decide to write science fiction? Have you always been a fan of sci-fi? 

I have always loved sci-fi, from the fifth grade when I read the age appropriate Wrinkle in Time and the age inappropriate Thuvia, Maid of Mars. My seventh/eighth grade English teacher was a huge sci-fi fan as well and even used sci-fi in curriculum, so I was in heaven in middle school. I actually got into the writing biz specifically to write sci-fi for tweenagers. I call Pretty Girl-13 “the book I accidentally wrote.” In fact, if you stare at it closely, you’ll see that a science fiction question was at the heart of the story: if you had the choice to remember or forget the worst things that had ever happened to you, what would you do? I tackled that from both the realistic therapy angle–reintegrating memories–and from the sci-fi angle–deactivating memories at the neuron level. Science fiction is still my favorite genre to read.

Question 2. Were any of characters in The Captain’s Kid modeled after real people you knew? If so, which ones? 

Brandon is somewhat a reflection of my oldest son Ian as he was at that age–precocious in math, physically uncoordinated in normal gravity, very hungry, addicted to video games, unable to keep clothes off the floor, and unaware of his leadership potential. The theme of vegetarianism was completely informed by my younger son Connor’s commitment to becoming a vegetarian around the age of 10. Everyone else hopped onto the page via my imagination.

Question 3. Are you working on any other novels at this time? 

I used to be disciplined and write one story at a time. Now I find myself with a variety of tales at the halfway point. There’s a thriller-mystery that I think of as a mashup of Rashomon, Oedipus Rex, and Breakfast Club called We Thought We Knew You. There’s a story about one of my favorite calming pastimes, Balancing Stones, about self-forgiveness and healing. There’s a lively romance that takes place in the bureaucratic upside-down high-rise that is Purgatory, tentatively called Living Down Under, and there’s a weird reincarnation mystery story I’m trying to wrap my head around. Also, I’m dabbling in playwriting.

Question 4. What age group do you feel The Captain’s Kid would appeal to most?

The Captain’s Kid seems to have two audiences. The obvious one, tween/teen boys and girls, ranges from a precocious 10-year old reader to a reluctant 16-year-old reader, with the sweet spot at about 7th-8th grade. Then there are the grown-ups who want a nostalgic read, a clean space adventure with teenage heroes, real life problems, and a first kiss.

Question 5. The acknowledgements mention that you wrote The Captain’s Kid for your two sons. That’s really cool! Did they help you brainstorm to come up with any of the characters or ideas in the novel?

The original version of The Captain’s Kid started as something I wrote in spiral notebooks while the boys were at Taekwondo and piano lessons. After I typed up each scene, I would read it to them in bed as part of our nightly 45 minutes or more of reading aloud. They were extremely helpful as far as their unedited natural reactions, whether laughing with or at me. Since I don’t work with outlines, they made me as anxious to know what was coming next as they were. As a vegetarian, Connor did take real exception to one part of the story and refused to listen for weeks! That little episode showd the impact of fiction on developing minds and codes of ethics.

Question 6. If you had to explain The Captain’s Kid in one sentence or less, what would it be? 

When thirteen-year-old Brandon Webb set out on his first interstellar voyage, he little suspects that the fate of a failing colony will come to depend on his courage, creativity, and compassion.

Question 7. Anything else you would like to say about the novel? 

I’ve met a lot of middle schoolers through school visits who still like being read to. Maybe they haven’t told their parents, but they’ve told me. So I recorded myself reading The Captain’s Kid as a YouTube serial–no fancy production values–just me being a mom and reading aloud, chapter by chapter. My dream is that kids who don’t enjoy reading because of reading challenges will find the series and take the opportunity to read along with me, the book in their hands and my voice in their ears. I branded the series “Undercover Reading,” and if nothing else you should check out the neat morphing logo I designed for it.

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About The Captain’s Kid (from lizcoley.com)

Whenever his parents went out on missions for the Space Survey Corps, Brandon Webb was left behind on Luna, left to dream of journeying between the stars, meeting aliens, defeating villains, saving the world. Now it’s his turn for adventure, permitted at last by the captain, his father, to join a year-long trip to a failing colonial planet on an emergency resupply run. Or so he’s told.

Brandon’s former dreams could turn to nightmares when the starship is sabotaged, the alien holds secrets about his past, the villain is on the right side, and the world isn’t ready to be saved.

Librarian Laura’s Review of The Captain’s Kid by Liz Coley

First, let me point out that I am not a reader of science fiction. However, I am so glad to have read The Captain’s Kid! I couldn’t put it down, mainly because the story line was so intriguing with just enough mystery to keep it moving along at a quick pace. Additionally, the main character, Brandon Webb, the “Captain’s kid,” was such a unique teenager. Smart as a whip, he still has the boyish clumsiness and goofiness that allow him to keep a positive attitude in perilous situations. With both parents working for the Space Survey Corps, Brandon grew up in an intellectually charged environment, which is clear by his genius in math and computer programming (or “hacking,” as some would refer to it). Brandon’s mother, missing and presumed dead, never returned from a space mission four years prior to Esperanza, a war-torn planet.

One day, Brandon’s father, Gordon, receives a call, and he’s back working for the SSC and planning a resupply mission to Esperanza. Having promised Brandon to never leave him behind, he must make good on his promise. So, Brandon is about to go on his first space mission, a “nube,” embarking on a year-long voyage on the starship named RELIABLE to Esperanza, the place his mother was last alive. He is nervous, but also very excited, having always dreamed of journeying in space.

When Brandon boards the ship and meets some of the other “space kids,” the trip becomes even more interesting for him. There’s Karthik, the son of RELIABLE’s head cook, who quickly becomes his best friend and confidant. And then there is Audrey, whom Brandon is instantly smitten over from the start. If only he can play it cool and not screw up his chances with her, being the klutz that he is. When Brandon becomes the main target of sabotage, however, he has to figure out who on the ship could be an enemy and why they are trying to put a stop to the mission and his life. As the RELIABLE gets closer to Esperanza, Brandon grows closer to Audrey, the danger aboard ship intensifies. Can Brandon and his friends figure out a way to save the mission, and themselves in time? You’ll have to read it and find out for yourselves. You won’t be sorry – it’s a great adventure with a neat ending. The book is well written, and very clean. Middle grade kids, young adults, and adults alike will enjoy this fast-paced space adventure.

Another really cool thing about this book is that Liz has a YouTube channel (LizColeyBooks) with a read-along serial of this book read by Liz herself as part of the Undercover Reading series. Anyone is welcome to subscribe and listen to Liz narrate this story and others.