Friday, February 24, 2012

Jennifer Brown--Hitting Home With Young Adult Readers

Everyone's Story welcomes Jennifer Brown as this week's guest. While browsing an independent bookstore's shelves not too long ago, Jennifer's YA novel HATE LIST, with its darker premise, caught both my reading and writing eye. Halfway through this compelling novel (oh, how I wish there was more reading time in a day) I contacted Jennifer with high hopes that she'd like to be my guest and be interviewed. Lucky for us all, she said yes!

Book Giveaway Excitement: Jennifer is offering one signed copy of HATE LIST and the ARC of her novel BITTER END to one randomly chosen commenter. For convenience, please include your e-mail address within the body of your comment. Thanks. Jennifer is looking forward to hearing from you, whether your read or write YA fiction or are a teen or a parent that can relate to her characters.

You pull no curtains in HATE LIST to shield the reader from teens’ anger. Do you see stressed teens as a by-product of present-day chaotic society or do you see teenagers causing more fuel to societal problems (i.e. school shootings)?

I think being a teenager has always been stressful. Hormones, drama, uncertainty, self-doubt, love, hate, danger—all of those things have always been around. What’s changed for today’s teens is how “connected” they are all the time, how bombarded they are with streams of information. It’s impossible to not feel like you’re constantly under a spotlight these days, and to not feel like you’re inundated with information and expectation from being plugged in all the time. 

What was the “kernel” that grew into your full-length novel HATE LIST?

It was one of those strange meaningless moments. I got the Nickelback song, “If Everyone Cared,” stuck in my head one night while I was sleeping, and when I woke up in the morning, Valerie was just there in my mind. I could see her, hear her, knew what had happened to her, and knew that there was this undercurrent of “Amen, I’m alive” (a lyric in the song) that was very important to her. 

But when it came to giving the characters life, all I needed to do was rewind a couple decades. I was bullied in junior high and part of high school, and it was a very rough time for me. I was somewhat surprised by how many feelings I was still hanging onto 20 years later, but there they were, landing right there in my book.

Many adult novels have teenage and children characters. As you wrote HATE LIST did you target the YA audience or was that more a suggested marketing device? In your opinion, what separates an adult novel with young characters from an all-out young-adult novel?

I was trying to break into the women’s fiction market previous to writing HATE LIST. Because I was so focused on women’s fiction and romance, I never even considered studying or paying attention to YA fiction. I had an idea that what I was writing *might be* considered YA, but I wasn’t trying to write YA. 

In my mind, the line between YA novels and adult novels is very, very thin. The plots can be every bit as complex, the characters every bit as deep and dynamic. I read and enjoy YA novels just as much as I do adult novels, and as a young adult, I read and enjoyed adult novels just as much as I did YA novels.

Your upcoming July release, PERFECT ESCAPE, is intriguing. Sounds like a road-trip adventure story with the twist of the trip shared between a sister and her brother, and the latter by force. Please tell us the basic premise. Does this story rise from elements of your own childhood?

PERFECT ESCAPE is a story about a girl who messes up and wants to run away. She “kidnaps” her older brother, in part to cure him of his OCD. It’s an exploration of the complex relationships between siblings, particularly between a sibling relationship where each sibling feels as if she is living under the shadow of the other. 

This book was a labor of love for me. I do have siblings, and those relationships have been complex and, at times, difficult and even heartbreaking. But I adore my siblings so much, and as we’ve grown older and have learned to lean on one another and count on one another in new ways, I’ve become more and more interested in exploring these complicated relationships. 

Who or what inspired you to create stories? When did you actually start pursuing publication? Was it a major lifestyle change to become a published author?

I have always written stories, though I never even considered trying to write one for publication until somewhere around 2000. I wrote with very little publication (and virtually no pay) for about 8 years before HATE LIST finally sold. HATE LIST was the fifth novel that I’d written, so there were a lot of years and a lot of faith that went into getting published.

The biggest lifestyle change for me has been the travel to speak at schools and libraries. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 12 years, so suddenly having to be out of town and away from my family several times a year was a huge change for all of us. 

You’re a two-time winner of the Erma Brombeck Global Humor Award (2005 and 2006). Congratulations! However, your stories seem to lean toward the more serious side of life. Has humor helped you in writing gritty plots? Has humor helped you in the discipline of writing?

Humor writing comes very natural to me. My first humor column actually ran in my high school newspaper my senior year. I wrote a humor column for my local metropolitan newspaper for over four years. I’ve always been more interested, however, in more serious stories, even though they’re more of a struggle for me to write. I don’t know if I can say humor really helped me write gritty plots, but it definitely helped me in the discipline of writing. I had to learn to write on deadline, how to work with an editor, and how to come up with story ideas, even when I had nothing.

You’re a wife, mom, college graduate with a degree in psychology, and an award-winning author. What achievements would you like to accomplish in the future? And, with all that under your belt, how do you prefer to kick back and enjoy down time, if there is such a thing in your life? 

There’s not a ton of down time, that’s true, but I am a devoted TV- and movie-watcher. I also read for pleasure for at least an hour every single day. And then once a year, I spend a week at the one place where it’s totally encouraged to wish, dream, imagine, and believe in romance and magic: Disney World.

As far as future goals go, I’d like to try out some other genres, particularly women’s fiction and middle grade. I’d like to stretch myself some, and write about something I currently don’t know anything about. Mostly, I just want to keep pushing myself, whatever that ends up looking like.

Author Bio:
"Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006),
Jennifer's weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for
over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult

Jennifer's debut novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown Books for Young
Readers, 2009) received three starred reviews and was selected as an
ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA "Perfect Ten," and a School
Library Journal Best Book of the Year. HATE LIST also won the Michigan
Library Association's Thumbs Up! Award, was an honorable mention for
the 2011 Arkansas Teen Book Award, is a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback,
received spots on the Texas Library Association's Taysha's high school
reading list as well as the Missouri Library Association's Missouri
Gateway Awards list, and has been nominated for the Oklahoma Sequoyah
Award. Jennifer's second novel, BITTER END, (Little, Brown Books for
Young Readers, 2011) received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly
and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults
list and is a 2012 Taysha's high school reading list pick as well.

Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her
husband and three children."

Friday, February 17, 2012

K.B. Schaller--Walking In Two Worlds

Everyone's Story's guest this week is K.B. Schaller. A member of the Native American Christian Church, K.B. is an award winning author, a journalist, poet, painter, and a former teacher in a Native American reservation academy. She has a lot to share with us . . . so we're getting right to it . . .

K.B. is generously offering a book giveaway of her first novel, GRAY RAINBOW JOURNEY, but with a twist: a contest. To win this novel that has won the USA Book News Best Books Award For Multicultural Fiction and the President's Book Awards For YA Fiction, K.B. challenges you to write in 100 words or fewer, based on the synopsis below, why you would like a copy of this book. Please enclose within the comment, and include your email address. The winner (announced on 2/24/12) will receive the book, plus have their winning composition posted on K.B.'s website.
Cheha Youngblood disappeared without a trace from the Bitterroot Confederacy three months ago, and her older daughter, Dina, is determined to find out why.

What do the clues in her mother's journal mean? Who is the giant-winged creature that so terrified her mother, a Native Christian convert? Could any of the tales that are as old as the Indian nations and told in the blackness of deep nights in the South Florida Everglades be true? And why are owls beginning to perch outside of Dina's home?

Then handsome Marty Osceola, the son of the most powerful witch on the Florida East Coast, the boy Dina had a crush on in grade school, arrives back in town... 

Now, a few questions for K.B.:

Do you live in the Everglades or close by? Please describe to this Northerner what this area of Florida is like.  

I once lived in the Glades before my job took me to the Florida East Coast.  Probably the most picturesque description would be to Google the Everglades. It is derived from a Mikasuki word meaning "River of Grass". I lived in Belle Glade, taught in a little school in Pahokee (meaning "Grassy waters"). Both are basically farm towns near Lake Okeechobee ("Big Water"), the largest fresh water lake in Florida, and the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. You can Google pictures of the lake and the towns. For an idea of  what the the Seminole chickees (houses) mentioned in the novels are like, click here

Your bio on your website describe's your debut novel GRAY RAINBOW JOURNEY as "An interplay of romance, mystery/suspense and religion, the story's heroine, Native American beauty Dina Youngblood, must make tough spiritual choices when tradition and Native Spirituality collide with mainstream faiths and values." In true life, are there many conflicts that Native Americans must face in embracing more mainstream Christian denominations? Why do you think these two worlds collide?

The tragic history of what many refer to as the Native American Holocaust was perpetrated by those who professed the Christian faith, but did not practice the love that it teaches. The reservation system confined Native Indians and was viewed by some as little more than concentration camps; while the boarding school era separated families by removing children frequently as young as 5 from their cultures, sometimes until they became young adults. The rationale/slogan was to "kill the Indian, save the man". Long story, and not very pretty.

For more information, I always recommend a brief study of Native American boarding schools and history of the reservation system. Movies such as "Geronimo" (with Native actor Wes Studi in the title role) are fairly accurate, historically. Also, "Son of the Morning Star"; and of course the iconic "Dances With Wolves". I addressed the issue in question in one of my blogs:  

Please tell us about your rescue cat? 

Chief, my kitty, adopted our family in 2002. He was about 4 months old at the time. We were attending a Wednesday evening prayer services on the Seminole Reservation. As we entered, he leaped from some hedges and befriended my husband, Jim, and me. Afterward, he was still waiting outside and once again, singled us out. His beautiful, irresistible green eyes asked, "Will you take me home with you?" Well, the rest is history. He and his sister, Sabrina, who is four years older than he, presently occupy a very special place in our home and hearts.

A Christmas Aftermath  by K.B. Schaller

I know. Christmas 2011 is gone. The trees are tossed, presents opened, I'm still recuperating from exhaustion, and a blog like this seems after the fact. But I wrote it because there are lessons here.
Firstly, there aren't many Native American Christians--only an estimated 3-8% are--so when church attendance falls it really shows. For a number of reasons, ours has fallen to less than half of what it was only a few years ago.
Several pastors have come and gone, so the remnant flock had not held a Christmas pageant--once a "biggie" in our little church--for quite some time.      
Then an Oklahoma Creek Indian minister and long-time friend to our congregation notified us that he would serve as interim pastor until a permanent one was installed. He asked no salary. He wanted only to see our struggling church re-embrace a sense of community. His message was simple: 
"Unless we love one another as Christ loved us, there can be no regeneration here."
The elders decided that a Christmas pageant complete with speaking parts, costumes and music would be just the spark to re-ignite and unify everyone again--because on "the rez", everybody comes to celebrations!
A friend reminded the elders: "KiKi(that's me) has a degree in performing arts and used to write and direct plays at our academy before it shut down." 
I live some eight miles from the rez, but it was a worthy project, so I placed my novel-in-progress on hold and took on a diverse cast of elders (the singers) to 'tweens, teens and 2 four-year-old actors in a church that opened for rehearsals only three evenings per week. More daunting, a lot of activities compete with rehearsal attendance during holiday seasons. And I had only two months to pull it all together.   
Script written, there was the challenge of presenting on a stage little more than twice the size of the average kitchen. Not to worry, though: a couple of seamstresses promised to make   costumes while others would handle props, scenery, etc. 
It seemed simple enough, but there was hardly a rehearsal where there were not absent performers: Soccer practice. Parties. Family outings. Furthermore, as our date inched nearer, involved in pre-holiday preparations, neither seamstress delivered a single costume as promised. Or donated even a yard of fabric.
Well, I'd learned, bed sheets from a Goodwill store could yield a lot of shepherd garbs--and even a red robe for King Herod (portrayed by the Oklahoma pastor). As I churned out some 18 outfits, most nights I didn't get to bed before three a.m.   
Then there was the woman who didn't understand fine-tuning a performance--to her, I was continually "changing things", being too demanding, while others bragged on the "great job" I was doing, but invested no sweat. 
Performance day drew closer. Key characters still flubbed their lines. Among the adults, tempers flared. Cliques formed. The very divisions we were trying to heal hovered as darkly as ever. I struggled against resentment, prayed for power to overlook. Forgive. Remain focused. And to keep faith.
But in the midst of my angst loomed yet another setback: just before our December 18 performance, our final three rehearsals were cancelled--they conflicted with too many other scheduled activities. We would face performance day "cold". I almost lamented having taken on a thankless project that had morphed into a living thing that was swallowing me alive.
The 18th arrived. There was the usual Sunday sermon, then members and guests gathered for a scrumptious-looking holiday luncheon beneath our thatched, open-air chickee. But for me, costumes needed ironing, the stage to be set up…   
Then finally, armed with cameras, beaming parents and others I hadn't seen for a time quickly filled the church. My mouth went dry. What, I wondered, would be the outcome? 
The music began. The sanctuary went quiet. I gave the cue. And only then, in that lifting moment, did the atmosphere lighten. Every actor's memory seemed to kick into high gear. With only a few whispered prompts to the youngest, that performance—that Nativity retelling (one of the three kings wore Indian Chief garb and headdress) was our best yet!
After the Indian Hallelujah finale, parents carefully tucked programs into purses and shirt pockets. Some stayed to chat. And upon most of us, a sense of community settled again. 
Will it sustain? Bump up membership? Yield the healing fellowship so badly needed? Only time will tell. 
The greatest lessons, I think, though, were of sustaining our faith in times of testing when God seems to be silent; and patience with others who are not in step with us--who are "marching to the beat of a different drummer." 
Author Bio:
K.B. Schaller, journalist, novelist , conference speaker, is author of Gray Rainbow Journey (National Best Books Award Winner, USA Book News; Winner, President's Book Awards, Florida Publisher's Assn., YA Fiction) and Journey by the Sackcloth Moon (both OakTara). She lives in South Florida, where she is currently writing a third novel in the Journey series.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Eden Mabee--A Writer Grounded On The Solid Foundation Of Family

Eden Mabee is the guest on Everyone's Story this week, sharing with us the story about two very special people in her life whom have inspired her. A full-time mom and loving wife, she is also pursuing publication of science-fantasy stories. And, check out her fantastic photography on the links in her bio. You will be awed!

Who inspires you to keep moving on through the daily grind and sometimes murk life flings up? Eden looks forward to hearing from you and your story.

We Come From Inspiration by Eden Mabee

In lieu of a post about me, may I introduce you to two of the most inspiring people I know? Nanny, my grandmother and Marcus, my son.
Eden's Nanny holding baby Marcus
Nanny will be 89 this May. A product of her time, the Great Depression, World War II--the 20th Century helped mold her but not define her. So let me tell you about a book, breast cancer and 300 home-baked pies.

Women in every generation have had a lot to overcome, and often it seems as if obstacles arrive daily. Twenty years ago, diagnosed with breast cancer Nanny called up the hospital on the day of her radical mastectomy to demand they reschedule. The extra hours of intake and anesthesia testing conflicted with her fund-raising luncheon to build “an elevator for the old people” (her words, not mine) at her church, and she still had another ten pies to bake (out of 300) before 11am. “In no way” she told them could she make it to the hospital before 2:30. She went in for surgery at 3pm and has been breast cancer-free since.

Just last December, she finished her book, an in-depth study of the Keck windows (Mr. Keck apprenticed with Tiffany) of her church and the history of Cicero, NY. She's spoken with the Syracuse University Press (where she also set up a scholarship for two students who participate in their Environmental Studies program), and hopefully it will be released within the year.
 How could I not be inspired by this woman?

Or my son, who at five-years-old already creates his own roller coasters, writes his own stories? [Marcus's story -- Tale of Two Tickles:]
Yesterday he came down from designing a pinball game on his computer to ask me how to spell Einstein. And he's known for years now more about our solar system and space exploration than me.
Marcus designing & creating

Having them in my life reminds me of the song Harry Belafonte made famous:Turn the World Around.For truly we come from the fire. (And coincidentally this was Marcus's favorite song for a long time, especially this version done with Jim Henson's Muppets).[The Harry Belafonte w/Muppets Video -- Turn the World Around 3rd Season Episode 14]

"We come from the fire Livin' in the fire Go back to the fire Turn the world around
We come from the water Livin' in the water Go back to the water Turn the world around
We come from the mountain Livin' on the mountain Go back to the mountain Turn the world around"

I see a continuity to life where our part is a small one, a moment of time. Many are probably familiar with the poem by Linda Ellis called The Dash where she compares our lives to that "dash" between the dates of our birth and death on a tombstone.[] 

It's true.But there is another, in my opinion, greater point that this poem doesn't address. When you put a lot of dashes together, you make a line. Actually, you get a multitude of lines, because there is not a one of us who does not touch many others in our time. And with a multitude of lines, you beget tapestries and art and panoramas. You beget worlds. And such is the way of print, as writers and storytellers. We beget worlds from a multitude of dashes all connected to each other.

We come from inspiration; we go back to inspiration. We turn the world around.

Author Bio:

While still learning daily about life, Eden Mabee writes science fantasy stories, teaches herself photography and enjoys the wonderful company of her husband and son. She collects feral cats, odd do-dads, and historical trivia, all of which find homes in prose eventually. In her blog, A Gardne of Delights (, she explores those things that inspire creativity. While Many Worlds From Many Minds ( follows her writing journey with all its twists and turns. You can find her pictures on Imgur ( and Flickr ( or under her Twitter name Kymele ( She spends far too much time in front of her computer screen).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Author Lisa Wingate On Women's Fiction, Mennonites, and Quiet Times

Everyone's Story's guest this week is award-winning national bestselling author Lisa Wingate. After winning her novel DANDELION SUMMER as a giveaway on The Borrowed Book blog and falling in love with Lisa's voice and the novel's characters, I knew I had to ask if she'd like to appear as a guest. And so indeed she said yes. Thanks, Lisa, for taking the time for your visit.

Lisa is graciously offering a book giveaway of her newest release BLUE MOON BAY to one randomly chosen commenter. Lisa looks forward to hearing from you ♡ ♡ ♡

As the title implies, Blue Moon Bay is set in a waterside town.  Is Moses Lake, Texas a real place or a fictional one?  Can you tell us a little about the setting and why you chose it?

Though the town of in the book is fictional, it is based on a real community.  During a family move some years ago, we lived temporarily in a relative’s lake house in a neighborhood that contained an eclectic mixture of people from all walks of life.  In the fifties, King’s Landing on Lake Whitney had been the place to be--a shady, luxurious street with a private resort near the shore.  Now, the resort lay abandoned, and life was quieter. Over time, life near the lake changes people and bonds them together.  They take on the rhythm of the water and the seasons. They adapt to a slower, more relaxed pace.  In a time when so many of us, like Heather in the story, live lives that seem a little too stressful, overscheduled, and disconnected, the idea of life in a quieter place feels tempting, comforting, alluring.  It occurred to me that such a community would be the perfect location for someone like Heather to contemplate her life, reconnect with family, and maybe even rediscover the boy she left behind in high school.
So much fiction centers on female relationships, but this book delves into the brother-sister sibling relationship, instead?  Can you tell us why you chose to explore that territory?  Does any of this come from real life?

The simple explanation of where Blue Moon Bay comes from would be that it came from a conversation with my editor.  We were sitting at dinner one night, talking about stories, and story ideas, and what things haven’t been talked about a lot in fiction.  Somewhere in that conversation, it was mentioned women’s fiction often mines the territory of the relationship between sisters, but not nearly as many stories delve into the sibling relationship between brothers and sisters.  My editor pointed a finger at me and said, “You know what, you’re right.  You should write about that.”
So, that’s the simple answer, but you end up finding that much of what you write comes from life in some way.  I enjoyed taking on the brother-sister relationship, because that’s how I grew up—as the little sister.  I feel sure there must be a special place waiting in heaven for those left-behind, tag-along, nicknamed little sisters who grew up with older brothers teasing them all the time.  The truth is that I owe my brothers for a few things in my childhood.  They never knew, back when they were leaving me in their dust, that their little tagalong sister would grow up to be a writer and one day put some of those brother-sister moments in a book ☺
Heather and her brother find themselves in a culture clash about Heather's ambitious project to sell the family land as part of a planned industrial development that will bring much-needed jobs to the Moses Lake area.  Both seem to have valid arguments, and this is such a timely discussion, given the world we live in.  Can you talk a bit about that?

Heather and her brother, Clay, are on opposite sides of a dilemma that affects many communities, both rural and suburban.  Industry provides jobs, but when factories and industrial facilities are built, natural habitat is destroyed, neighboring property is devalued, and quality of life is affected.  When Heather and Clay discuss the future of the family land in Moses Lake, they find themselves in conflict about whether the sacrifice of the land is worth it to create jobs that could provide low-income families living in Chinquapin Peaks with viable sources of employment.  Is inherent risk of industrial development simply too high?  Does there come a time when those who don't want things to change must accept change?  The debate has no easy answers, and it’s something many communities struggle with.
A very interesting character in the book is Ruth, the Mennonite housekeeper who cared for Heather during a difficult part of her childhood.  Through Ruth, Heather learns some of the struggle of Russian Mennonites, displaced during World War II.  Why did you choose to include a Mennonite character and her historical thread in the novel?

When you’re working with a main character who has some serious issues to work out (as all good characters do) one thing you’re looking for in the story is a reflection character—someone who ads to the main character’s objective, who grounds the hero or heroine of the story, who often sees in the character a deep-seated need.  

Many people don’t know it, but in Central Texas, where the book is set, there are several Mennonite communities, where residents live various levels of conservative lifestyles.  Since the Mennonite communities were mentioned in the first Moses Lake book, but not really explored, I thought a Mennonite character in the book would be a natural fit as a grounding force in Heather’s gadget-obsessed life.  When Heather returns to Moses Lake, she begins remembering the quiet, gentle, unassuming person who had worked as a housekeeper for her uncle years before.  Heather remembers Ruth’s patience and her love, as well as her gentle faith.  With Heather’s life now in turmoil, she is drawn to Ruth again, and there are lessons for her learn from Ruth’s stories, as well as from Ruth’s history.  Though Heather has let the trauma of her own past limit her future, Ruth has risen above a difficult history through family bonds and an abiding faith.  Because of Ruth, Heather begins to see that it is possible to overcome a difficult past and have a life that is bountiful and filled with hope.

                                           2011 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award

When you're not writing, what's your favorite way to spend the day?

We live in the country, and I’m a mom of boys, so my favorite place to spend a non-writing day is anywhere outdoors.  I love to wander through the woods, take care of our farm animals, or pack a backpack and journey to the boys’ swimming hole on a rocky creek in the back pasture.  The solace and soul of being out of reach of technology helps me to relax, to focus, and think.  Aside from that, it’s just good to know that, even in this high-tech age, a creek can still entertain a gaggle of boys all day long.
Where can readers find you online?

I love visiting with readers and new friends online.  People can find me on:
Blogging Mondays at:
My website:

Author Bio:

Lisa Wingate is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker and a national bestselling author.  Lisa is one of a select group of authors to find success in both the Christian and general markets in mainstream fiction. Her works have been featured by the National Reader's Club of America, AOL Book Picks, Women’s World Magazine, Family Circle Magazine, and have been short-listed for various awards, including the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Award, which her book Never Say Never won in 2011.  Lisa also spends time on the road as a motivational speaker. Via Internet, she shares with readers as far away as India, where her book, Tending Roses, has been used to promote women's literacy, and as close to home as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the county library system has used Tending Roses to help volunteers teach adults to read.  Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.

Thanks To My International Viewers

Courtesy Google Images

Everyone's Story is blessed with quite a large international viewership. I'd like to take this time to thank not only viewers in the United States and Canada but from a wide range of countries. Recent viewers have been from El Salvador, Mexico, Russia, Israel, Cyprus, Bosnia, Morocco, Iraq, Chile... and many more places. Thank you so much. It takes all of us to make the world spin in peace.

Please, if you would like, I invite you to comment. You are all so very special and make my life meaningful.

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