Book Review: My Heart And Other Black Holes By Jasmine Warga

Not like my usual reviews, but I was so in love with this book and it’s message, and it was so deeply personal to me, I had to share my thoughts here. Trigger Warning: Depression Ahoy. Like, hardcore.

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

Review:

This was a difficult one for me. You may wonder why someone who struggles with depression, whose preteen son struggles with depression, would choose a book about two teens who make a suicide pact, but there’s an easy answer to that. I have been picking books lately by literally eeny meeny-ing my way through my TBR. Surprise! The book you put on your list years ago, when it wouldn’t be nearly as emotionally jarring for you, has you nearly sobbing and eating your nails off on the NYC subway!

And yet.

This book was gorgeous. So many beautiful lines on such a painful subject. So much hope hidden in the pages. The author’s use of principles of physics to highlight the potential energy in living and the relativity in how we each see our lives was just so beautiful, and ended up being discussed with my son who may be too young to read this book without turning it into a reason to be more depressed, but is actually intelligent enough to understand these two principles of physics. I loved the inherent hope in these universal principles.

SPOILERS AHEAD

While other readers thought the romance between the two main characters was trite and obvious in a YA book, I found it refreshing. The best part about it being that it’s not what saved them. What saved them was finally talking to each other about what they were going to. It was opening themselves up. Aysel and, we find, Roman, was not speaking to anyone about her internal life. When she opened herself up to Roman, she slowly began unburdening herself. It happens slowly, so slowly you may miss it (and many readers seem to have missed it) but you can see Aysel freeing herself the minute she starts speaking to people more, acknowledging this feeling inside of her, embracing her potential energy. And Roman is doing the same, even though we don’t see it outwardly, we can see it in the way he keeps trying to convince himself that nothing about their plan can change, in the way he holds Aysel tighter, in the way he tries to do it on his own before Aysel can stop him. He’s made himself this mission, and he feels it slipping and he’s grabbing on even harder because he’s afraid to let it go. In the end, when they both decide against it, it feels real. And it doesn’t feel like a solution, like an ending.

It feels like potential energy.

Guest Post: Teenagers in YA Novels

Teenagers In YA Novels
By: Lucia Brucoli

It is safe to say that we’re in the era of the Young Adult genre. More and more people, not just adolescents, are starting to read and write YA novels. There are hundreds of sub-genres within it such as fantasy, horror, thrillers, coming-of-age, romance and science fiction, and even more within those such as epic fantasy, futuristic, and chick flicks. However, the one thing they all have in common (as it is the main feature of YA) is that the main characters are teenagers.

I love the Young Adult genre, not only because I see myself and my age group in books, but also because being a teenager is no longer being regarded as a time stuck between childhood and adulthood, but a unique stage of a person’s life. However, something that frustrates me in YA novels is when teenagers aren’t portrayed realistically. So, I’d like to point them out in the following list. 

Some of the things I’ll say potentially apply to the New Adult genre as well. I also want to mention that since most young adult novel characters are from the middle class, I won’t touch on issues such as criminal neighborhoods and heavy financial problems. So, my notes may not be relevant in these cases.

Let’s jump right into it! 

No School 

Whether your teen character is in a fantasy world of powers and magic, in a moon colony after a nuclear disaster on Earth, or has an ordinary adolescent life, chances are, there is an educational system they have to attend. I realize that there are exceptions to this, but the moment it is established that a character goes to school… wait for it… they must go to school. There are entire contemporary novels of the typical life of a high school teenager, except they’re never in school, but always at parties and sleepovers, and the only school-located scenes are in homeroom an the cafeteria. Even someone who doesn’t care about school and skips lessons will get detention, be called to the principal, or parents will be contacted. Even though this is different in all schools, most have some kind of record of absences. 

On a related note, something I’ve noticed is that characters who go to school never seem to have homework, or need to study. There are tests. Exams. Pop quizzes. Projects. After-school clubs.  How do YA teenagers manage not to repeat grades or drop out?

Having a character mention that a professor was being unfair, or that someone got detention, or that Trigonometry will be the death of them isn’t an info-dump or useless dialogue. It is only adding depth to the story, as well as making the story more realistic and closer to the readers experiences. For example in KEEPER, the story starts with Lainey annoyed because her best friend Maggie made her go with her to a noisy store, when she has to study for SATs. She resolves this issue by reciting the vocabulary while waiting for her. 

No Guardians/Adults 

It is no secret that in YA novels, adults are usually distant, nonchalant, or simply nonexistent. I understand the use of this, to a certain extent: most YA novels focus on the growth of teenagers, making their own decisions and finding out how far they can go to solve whatever obstacle the author has thrown in their way. 

But aren’t parents or guardians worried? Say your main character is a superhero, who was given special powers by the Gods but must practice them in secret. Where are their parents in all this? While the kid is going around preventing war and destruction, aren’t the parents or guardians frantically searching for them? Doesn’t the kid have a curfew? An example of a story where this is addressed is in the movie E.T.: the main character is always trying to hide the Alien from his mum: faking a fever, sneaking food, the phone call where he pretended to be sick… and even then, the mum still kept a close eye on him. 

Parents don’t usually abandon their children, and if they do, there’s got to be some sort of psychological reason: even an absent parent always on their phone will realize if their child is never home and happens to have a pair of wings. 

Even in books where the teen character is homeless without a family, there are always adults somewhere. I can tell you from personal experience to what extent nosy neighbors can factor into a person’s life. 

Knowing Everything

It should be fairly well-known that teenagers wonder about the future, constantly trying to figure out what they do and don’t like. Whether they’re daydreaming about the perfect house, their journey in life, a job, and partner, or wishing they could be different, adolescents try to figure things out. Then why is it, that teens in YA novels always seem to have everything under control, never hesitating? Even the most determined adults can have doubts, and even the couples most in love feel insecure. It is incredibly rare that teenagers know everything they want to do in their lives. 

This also applies to teenage relationships, as most don’t make it past six months, let alone staying together after high school. I’m not saying teen relationships cannot work out because some do. But teenagers are in such a chaotic and emotional stage of their lives: call me a cynic, but it’s unrealistic for so many teen couples to think they’ll be together forever. So no, Bella from Twilight, I don’t think you and Edward will be in love for the rest of your immortal lives.

In my opinion, Bebe Rexha perfectly summed this up in her song Call You Mine: “You said, ‘Hey, whatcha doing for the rest of your life?’ And I said, ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing tonight’ ”. 

There’s also the issue of teens knowing how to do all sorts of thing. Teens flying spaceships without a second thought, leading entire kingdoms, and murdering expert killers. Too many times are there stories with main characters who can’t even handle running after the school bus for ten seconds, but suddenly they can beat up a thief or fight armed police guards, getting out without a scratch? 

When talking specifically of sports, most adolescents fluctuate between being absolutely unfit, doing sports only because Physical Education is compulsory, or they are obsessed with sports and the gym. If your character falls into the former category but then does something incredibly athletic, there’s got to be something huge justifying their newfound fitness. 

Language Extremes

And last but not least, language. Once again, in my experience, there are two extremes many authors fall into when writing teen dialogue: either really sophisticated, or over-slanged. Unless there’s a way to justify this, a teen isn’t usually going to call up a friend saying “Hello, how are you? I was wondering if you were free for dinner tomorrow evening?” or “Yo man what’s up dinner tomorrow you down?”. Chances are, they’ll fall somewhere in the middle depending on their culture, class, circumstance, up-bringing, and the universe you’ve created for them. In conclusion, “Hey, wanna go out to dinner tomorrow?” can be a good compromise. 

Next comes a personal pet peeve of mine: texting. I adore books where characters text. However, I can’t stand when authors make characters text absolute gibberish abbreviations to sound ‘cool’ and ‘modern’. Trust me when I say, nobody ever texts “Hiya how r u, hw rn I got math 4 tmr dyinggggg, cyou 2night @7 yah?” 

No. Just no. 

Writing teen characters is really difficult: I’m a teen writing YA, and I struggle. This article actually helped me reflect on my own novel, and while writing I made a number of changes regarding schoolwork and parental presence. I added scenes where they were doing schoolwork (or complaining about it), and I removed some scenes with secondary adult characters, making my main character’s parents be there instead. 

Of course I realise there are exceptions to my list: it’s merely a general overview of some things I’ve noticed in Young Adult novels. My best piece of advice for authors wondering if their teenage character is accurate, is to give it to some beta readers in the same age group. If they approve of it and say it is accurate, then I wouldn’t worry. 

Happy writing! 


Lucia Brucoli is a high school student, aspiring author and freelance writer. She is now working on her Young Adult sci-fi novel, GOODBYE. In her free time, she enjoys watching t.v shows, reading, and of course, writing!

Connect with her:

Twitter: @BrucoliLucia

Instagram: @LuciaBrucoli

Website: www.luciabrucoli.com

When Edits Hurt

Hi all!

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to guest post on the blog of Jeni Chappelle, editor extraordinaire. I spoke about the agony of the edits.

As a writer that has been edited and an editor that has worked with writers, I’d like to paint you a picture.

You’re a writer, and you just received a massive developmental and line critique from the editor you hired. You open it up and gaze into the glaring image of comments and track changes that have made your once monochrome document into a rainbow of color. Your heart gives a little squeeze. Tears poke at your eyes. You haven’t even read what the editor has to say yet, but you see that rainbow and it evokes memories of literally every test you ever got back from a teacher to find it marked in red. Then you start reading the comments and suggestions. Some make you nod. But some cut to the bone. You want to hurl explanations at the editor. Couldn’t they understand? Why weren’t they getting what you were doing with your words! You’re caught somewhere between anger, sadness, and a sort of numb defensiveness, and you don’t know which direction best serves you as a writer.

And that’s okay. Getting edits should hurt.

To read more of this post, and to check out the rest of Jeni’s blog, click here.

Songs That Lift My Mood

My son and I both suffer from clinical depression. After years of dealing with strange misconceptions about the illness, I’ve begun to fancy myself a mental health advocate. Logan and I have agreed–if sharing our stories with the world help people, we’re happy to share them. This openness with our mental health has caused problems in the past. People do not understand. When you say you struggle with your mental health, people either think you’re dangerous, or your credibility becomes shot through with holes. It’s extremely frustrating. So, every now and then, I use this little platform I’ve developed to simultaneously attempt to dispel a misconception, while also providing help. 

Now, firstly, there are levels of depression. There are depths of depression that nothing can dispel short of medication, therapy, and time. But sometimes, we feel ourselves dipping low and can pull the reins before we get that far. Sometimes we can’t, but when we can shift the trajectory before we get too deep, it’s good to try. I tend to use music to try to lift my spirits when I’m in this headspace. This obviously won’t work for everybody, and if I’m honest, it doesn’t always work with my son, so this is hit and miss. But if music helps keep you from spiraling, or if you just want a mood pick-me-up, here are the songs that turn my mood around. 

Life In Color by One Republic

A song about feeling dejected but finding a light at the end of the tunnel? Well, it certainly couldn’t get more on message than that, could it? With lyrics like “Well this is life in motion/And just when I could run this race no more/The sun bursts, clouds break/This is life in color” how could you not feel uplifted?

High Hopes by Panic! At the Disco

We play this song every morning to get Logan in the right brain space to take on the world. “Had to have high, high hopes for a living/Shooting  for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing/Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision/Always had high, high hopes/Had to have high, high hopes for a living/Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling/I was gonna be that one in a million/Always had high, high hopes.”

Battle Symphony by Linkin Park

Sometimes you just need a reminder that sometimes things are bad, but you can get back up and keep on moving. I sing this one to my baby when he feels overwhelmed by bullies. “I’ve been searching for the courage/To face my enemies/When they turn down the lights/I hear my battle symphony/All the world in front of me/If my armor breaks/I’ll fuse it back together.” A little reminder to keep fighting never hurt anyone.

Best Day Of My Life by American Authors

This one is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy rolled up in a song. How bad can your day be, if you start it singing that it will be a good day? Well…probably worse than the BEST day…but, you can lift your spirits with HOPE! “But all the possibilities/No limits just epiphanies.” And don’t forget the Woah-oh-ohs. This song is just fun times.

Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars

Whatever, this song is just fun. No uplifting message, just a fun beat. Don’t @ me.

Sharp Edges by Linkin Park

Yeah, another Linkin Park song. And we’re not even gonna discuss the fact that their more uplifting songs were on their final album with Chester Bennington. We’re just not. Either way, you can’t deny the hopeful nature of lyrics like “We all fall down/We live somehow/We learn what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Motivation to keep moving, provided by someone who knows damn well what a struggle it can be.

The Climb by Miley Cyrus

Another one that motivates you. “There’s always gonna be another mountain/I’m always gonna wanna make it move/Always gonna be an uphill battle/Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose/Ain’t about how fast I get there/Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side/It’s the climb.” Now, sure, it sounds just like my eighth grade valedictorian speech (I’m not joking), but half the joy of listening to this song is hearing how country Miley gets when she says “get there.” Trust me, it’s adorable.

I Love Myself Today by Bif Naked

Because you should. Always. “I’ll stand right up/Spit shine my soul/I’m gonna be proud and loud and outta control.” Hell yes. Sometimes, you just have to lose control. And the scream after the chorus makes that line even better.

Shake it Off by Taylor Swift

Yes. I, too, am ashamed of myself. There went my whole effortlessly cool vibe.

Good Life by One Republic

This one is fun, but it’s less about the lyrics and more about the fun background music that brings a smile to my face.

Second Wind by Kelly Clarkson

Another great reminder that even when people have something to say about you, even when you can’t get things right the first time, there’s always another chance to get it right. “You can’t forget about me/While you weren’t looking I was gettin’ even higher/ Say what you want about me/Your words are gasoline on my fire/You can hate me, underestimate me/Do what you do ’cause what you do don’t phase me/Just when you think I’m at the end/Any second I’mma catch my second wind.”

It’s Time by Imagine Dragons

A song about rising above your past and growing, while always remembering where you came from? It doesn’t get more in tune with my personal inspiration buttons than that. And with lines like, “The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell right to the top/Don’t look back,” you could bet on this one being on my list. A poetic retelling of my life story? I’ll take it.

Crazy by Meredith Brooks

Most people remember Brooks as the person who sang all about being “a bitch,” but this is my favorite song of hers. It’s so much fun, and all about encouraging you to be exactly who you are, and how everyone tells you to do that, but only on their terms. “You say don’t change a single thing/but your list is longer than my day/I can’t help wondering/When all is said/And all is done/Am I the crazy one?”

Machine by Imagine Dragons

This one serves as a reminder that I’m not trapped. Sometimes, when the world is raining down on you, or life keeps throwing you one responsibility after another, or the establishment is just getting you down, you need a reminder that you’re not just a cog in the machine. You are the machine–just as capable as running things and causing trouble as anyone and anything else. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, between its deep meaning and its rollicking beat, this is a new favorite. “Cause I’ve been wondering/When you gonna see I’m not for sale/I’ve been questioning/When you gonna see I’m not a part of your machine/Not a part of your machine/I am the machine.”

Rough Draft by Sarah Solovay

It could be that this is writer or artist specific, but this particular song tickles that part of me while also making me generally happy. A reminder that every person is a work in progress, this song plays with that idea with references to common issues with early drafts, and how changes can create masterpieces. It’s just so cleverly written and has a wonderful message. “So if you want me you got me/Granted I’m scattered and sloppy/But you can’t send me back/I’m just a rough draft/So cut me and crop me/And when I’m ready make copies/And one day/The real thing might blow you away.”


What are your favorite pick me up songs? Post them below. Maybe you’ll lead me to some new favorites. 🙂

Interview with Christi J. Whitney

Today on the blog, I’m interviewing Christi J. Whitney a YA author with a successful series on the market. I’ll post links so you can all go follow her after the interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have. 

Justine: Hello, and welcome back to my blog! The last time you appeared on my site, it was in the form of an author spotlight, two years ago, and your last book release had been Book 2 of your Romany Outcasts series. Since then, Book 3 was released. Tell us more about that book. 

Christi: Yes, it has been a couple of years! Well, the third book in the trilogy is titled MIDNIGHT. It finishes out the story arc of Sebastian Grey and Josephine Romany, and it continues immediately after SHADOW.  Although I had originally envisioned The Romany Outcasts Series to be four books, my publisher wanted a trilogy, so I did a lot of editing and rethinking the storyline to bring everything to a satisfactory close in MIDNIGHT. I had the least amount of time to write this book, as I was under a deadline, so it was certainly a challenge, but I am pleased with how it turned out. MIDNIGHT differs from the other two books, in that a good majority of the novel is told from Josephine’s point of view, so we are able to get a more in-depth look into her life and emotions than I was able to present in GREY and SHADOW.

Justine: How did it feel to bring that era to a close?

Christi: Although my plan for four books had to change when I sold my book series to HarperCollins, I still have the outline for book four, and I do have plans to write it in the future. I don’t know what that will look like as of yet. It might be something I self-publish; but I love these characters so much, and I really want the chance to do a little more with them.

Justine: On my blog, we’ve been talking a lot about writing what you know. You don’t have to get super personal with this, but are there any aspects of your story which came from personal experience?  

Christi: Oh, there were definitely several aspects of my story that came from personal experience. At the time I began writing GREY (the first book in the series) I was teaching and directing theatre full time at a local high school. I modeled many of my characters directly from students that were in my program. In fact, my students were the ones who encouraged me to turn this story idea I had into a full novel, and a few of them even volunteered to read my chapters and give feedback as I wrote them. The Gypsy Ink Tattoo Parlor and the guys that worked there were also modeled after things and people I knew in real life. And finally, I gleamed the idea of the Romani characters from some of my own family history.

Justine: What are you currently working on? 

Christi: I have a completed novel called BLEEDER that I am currently shopping around. BLEEDER is also YA, but with a bit more urban fantasy and science fiction bent to it. The story takes place in a small coastal town in Georgia and deals with different dimensions, strange creatures, and a girl with unusual gifts. As to what I’m writing at the moment…I’m about half-way through a first draft of an untitled novel that I would categorize as light science fiction. The characters are fun, and I’m have a blast writing the dialogue in this novel.

Justine: Oh, BLEEDER sounds interesting. And I can’t wait until you’re ready to share more about that light sci-fi. On a different note, I see you like to Cosplay! A fellow geek like me. 🙂 Please, please, PLEASE share your favorite cosplay with us. Pictures or it didn’t happen. 😉 

Christi and friend as Sven and Kristoff from Frozen

Christi: I’m so pleased you asked me this! Yes, I definitely like to cosplay, and I am a huge geek. If it’s fantasy or science-fiction related, I probably love it (unless I am simply not familiar with it). And I do enjoy cosplaying characters that I really adore. I think my very first cosplay (years ago) was Jack Sparrow. Since then, I’ve done everything from dwarves from the Hobbit, Frozen, Alice in Wonderland, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, X-Men, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Christi as Nightcrawler from X-Men

My most recent favorite cosplay, however, has to be Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series. The Professor has been an unexpected, but wonderful experience for me.

Christi as Professor Snape from Harry Potter

About a year ago, I made a profile on  the Musical.ly app as a way to try and connect with readers. But I decided to sort of give it variety by posting a mixture of book/writing things with some cosplay. Not long after, Musical.ly became TikTok, and I began getting a lot of traffic for my Professor Snape cosplay. Fast forward a few months later, and it’s become a crazy thing! I’ve connected with so many readers and have been able to talk so much about writing and books…but it’s really all because of my cosplay. So I owe the professor quite a bit of love. I have a few cosplay pictures here, but if you’d like to see more of Snape, you are welcome to check out my TikTok page (christij.whitney)

Justine: Those are SO COOL. You just made the geek in me very happy. So, you clearly have a flare for the dramatic, between teaching theatre and cosplaying. What led you on the path to becoming a writer? 

Christi: My path to becoming a writer began, as many paths do, when I was a child. The first true fantasy book I ever remember reading was The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. It opened up a door to me that I didn’t know existed. I would write little short stories and create characters in fantasy worlds similar to Narnia. By the time I was in middle school. I was writing quite a lot, but I had no confidence, and I refused to show anything I’d written to anyone. It all stayed carefully hidden in journals and folders. In high school, I was bitten by the theatre bug, and I went to college to become a theatre teacher. I spent many years doing that, but the stage became my way of creating stories, so my writing took a back seat. Then, one Christmas break, several years into teaching, I began having these ideas for a story pop into my head. I shared them with some of my students, and they convinced me to write it down. So I put on my dusty writing cap and began. It was a big learning process, especially because I was learning towards young adult fiction. I had to learn how to pace my writing and how to balance description and dialogue. Despite having an English degree, I felt like a complete writing novice. But I attended classes, joined SCBWI, found a critique group…and I got better at my craft.

Justine: I love it. What inspires you?

Christi: Gosh, everything! I get a lot of inspiration from film and television shows, and also from books. Theatre is inspiring because I love the process of creating characters and fleshing them out. Teaching novels to students does the same thing. I could discuss plot, characters, and motivation all day. As I said, I’m a huge geek, so I look to all kinds of fantasy lore to spark something fresh in my brain.

Justine: If you could pick the brain of any writer, which would you choose?

Christi: I have so many writers I adore, and they come from different places and times. I’d certainly love to pick the brains of some of the giants — Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. But I also wouldn’t mind sitting down with some of the great YA authors currently out there, like Cassandra Clare and definitely J.K. Rowling…I’d also love picking the brain of Jack Thorne and John Tiffany (who helped Rowling writing the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).

Justine: If your geeky self could choose any imaginary world to live in, where would you go and why? 

Christi:  It is so difficult for me to chose the fantasy world I’d best like to live in. I suppose it depends on what type of character I was able to be in those worlds. I will always adore Narnia, but I would want to be some magical creature there. I would love to travel with the Doctor in the universe of Doctor Who (even if that’s more science fiction), but if I had to only choose one…maybe the Wizarding World…I’d love to be a Hogwarts professor like Snape or McGonagall. 

Justine: And now it’s time for our rapid fire Q&A segment!

Q: Favorite writing instrument? 
A: Computer

Q: Plotter or Pantser? 
A: Both

Q: Chocolate, Vanilla, or other?
A: Toffee

Q: Sweet or savory? 
A: Savory

Q: Favorite book? 
A: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Q: Dream vacation?
A: The U.K.

Q: Dogs or Cats?
A: Dog

Thank you so much for joining us, Christi! If you want to follow Christi on the web, you can check her out at the following links:

Website: http://christijwhitney.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christijwhitney/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristiWhitney
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christijwhitney/


HUGE NEWS! PUBLICATION NOTICE: The Order of the Key is back from the dead!

A while back I wrote that I’d shelved my first novel, The Order of the Key. It was an important decision I needed to make as I moved forward with writing a different story. However, I had never truly given up on Jacklyn and Kyp, the main characters of my inaugural tale.

Jacklyn Madison Character Aesthetic

Though nearly every person I spoke to told me that YA Urban Fantasy was dead, or that I had missed the market on my story, I refused to let go, and continued quietly submitting the story to small publishers, eagerly looking to find a forever home for my plucky cast of characters.

Kyp Franklin Character Aesthetic

Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve found that home. I have signed with Black Rose Writing, and together, we will be bringing you a newer, even stronger version of The Order of the Key in July 2020!

Everybody, pterodactyl screech with me!

Thank you all for your unwavering support! I can’t wait to bring you all along on this new journey with me.

Interview with Lina Rehal

Today on the blog, I’m interviewing Lena Rehal, an author of “seasoned” contemporary romance. Lina has many books and essays released, and I’ll post links so you can all go follow her after the interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know Lina as much as I have. 

Justine: When we first spoke, you described your stories as “seasoned” contemporary romance? Can you explain what that means to you and why you decided to write in that specific category of the genre?

Lina: Seasoned romance is becoming more popular. It’s defined as stories with heroines/heroes being 30 and up. To me, seasoned means a bit older than that. My characters are usually late forties/early fifties with an older couple in some sort of sub-plot. It’s easier for me to relate to this age group. I like stories with second chances at love. It’s what I like to read and what I like to write about.

Justine: On my blog, we’ve been talking a lot about writing what you know, and I see that you stand by this idea as well. You don’t have to get super personal with this, but which of your books feels like it’s steeped the most in your experiences, whether it’s setting, character, careers, etc.

Lina: I’d have to say LOVING DANIEL. Although Grace Madden isn’t really like me, she is a romance writer. The significance of the yellow roses in the story came from my love of yellow roses. Part of the book is set in Ogunquit, Maine where Aidan takes her for a day. Ogunquit is one of my favorite places. I have tons of pictures from various trips there with my husband. In fact, the cover is a photo I took myself of a spot in Perkins Cove that we like, which also had significance in the story.

I sprinkle a little of the places I know and visit often in all my books. In LASTING IMPRESSIONS, Dylan and Valerie spend a weekend in North Conway, New Hampshire, another one of my favorite vacation spots.

Even in my first romance story, OCTOBER IN NEW YORK, Gwendolyn and Thomas watched fireworks over Boston Harbor from a hotel at the airport. I was able to describe it well, because I’ve done it. I guess my settings reflect the most of my experiences in each of my books. I like bringing people to my favorite places with words.

Justine: You discuss your muse on your website—do you have any writing rituals that help to make your muse cooperate?

Lina: I often write big chunks of a story in my head. By letting a storyline percolate for days or even weeks, it gets my muse ready for action when I sit down to put words to paper. This is when the story seems to write itself. I love it. Some good ideas come to me while I’m driving. I’m not crazy about this, as I can forget it before I get home. Other times, when I’m stuck, I switch to another book I’m working on or story. It gets the process in motion again.

Justine: I see you like to write a lot about nostalgia. Current fiction trends, on TV and in movies especially, seem to be leaning toward nostalgia for the 80’s, while yours goes a little further back in time. What is it about nostalgia that you feel makes it so popular?

Lina: Most people love to reminisce. I think they like looking back and remembering a time when life was simpler for them. I’m a baby-boomer. I grew up in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I don’t think there’s been another era like it.

My first book, CAROUSEL KISSES, is a collection of nostalgic stories and personal essays about the days of lemonade stands, amusement parks, penny arcades, the big silver screen, drive-in movies, corner drugstores with soda fountains, five and ten cent stores and penny candy. The book has been popular, not only with baby boomers, but with people of all ages.

Justine: What led you on the path to becoming a writer?

Lina: My first published piece was in a small yearbook in the 5th grade. I still cherish that book with the faded mimeographed pages. That may be what got me started. That and my love of telling stories.

Justine: What inspires you?

Lina: I love this question. Authors are inspired by so many things. Mostly, our surroundings. We observe people. We eavesdrop on conversations in restaurants, coffee shops, elevators and in line at the movies and the supermarket. Sometimes it can be the least little thing that hits me and I’m itching to turn it into a story. I tell people to be careful what they say when they are having a quiet, intimate dinner or talking on their cell phone in public. Something they say could end up in a book.

Justine: It’s so true! We’re always listening. If you could pick the brain of any writer, which would you choose?

Lina: Nora Roberts. She’s my favorite. Love her romance books. I’ve read most of them.

Justine: Tell us about your most recent release.

Lina: Lasting Impressions is book two of my Tucker’s Landing Series. Dylan Granger is the newest resident in this lovely coastal town. He gets more than he bargained for when he buys an old waterfront estate. The handsome architect’s plans for the property put him at odds with the neighbors. Valerie Fitzgerald, a real estate broker he’s never met, has a personal grudge against him and leads the crusade.

Fate throws them together in an unexpected encounter on White Stone Beach. Dylan hides his identity from her when he realizes who she is and leaves abruptly. When they meet again, his identity becomes apparent. So does their mutual attraction for one another. They later become trapped overnight in his home during a terrible storm. A little candlelight and cognac help get them through a power failure.

It took me about a year to write this one. I put it aside for almost another year. I just wasn’t ready to finalize it. Kept putting it off. I wrote JILLIE & SAM in the meantime. Then, finally, I pulled it back out, made the necessary changes and finished the process to self-publication.

Justine: That sounds really great. Oddly, I’ve just picked up a book I started and couldn’t finish. I’m revisiting it now and I’m excited to finish it, but it took a year to get there. 

Now for our quick fire question segment:

Q: Favorite writing instrument?

A: Desktop

Q: Plotter or Pantser?

A: Pantster

Q: Chocolate, Vanilla, or other?

A: Vanilla spice

Q: Sweet or savory?

A: Savory

Q: Favorite book?

A: Scarlett

Q: Dream vacation?

A: Disneyworld!

Q: Dogs or Cats?

A: Cats

Justine: Thank you so much for joining us today, Lina. If you are interested in following Lina on her writing journey, please follow her at the social media links posted below. 

Websites: www.linarehal.com

www.thefuzzypinkmuse.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008L5FNPS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefuzzypinkmuse/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarouselKisses

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lina-rehal-28249214/