Blog Tour: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman!

I could not be more honored to be part of the blog tour for Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman!

love Starfish, y’all. Here’s my review if you haven’t read it, where I say things like:

There are hardly words to describe how much it means to me.

I could write an entire essay just on how much I love Kiko, our narrator.

I love contemporary that keeps you going as easily as a suspense does. The tension is so palpable, and I had to know what would happen to Kiko. I had to keep reading..

So, needless to say, I’m THRILLED to have a Q&A with Akemi on Off-Color Literature today!

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

So without further adieu, here’s my Q&A with Akemi!

I was so, immediately enamored of your book. What inspired you to write Starfish? Which part of the story came to you first?


Thank you so much! STARFISH is very much the book I needed as a teen. I wanted this story to exist in the world because I felt like it was something that was missing on the shelves—and I hope the readers who need it most will find it and feel like they finally have a mirror. The part of the story that came to me first was actually the first chapter—a girl at an art show with a mother who is completely uninterested in her. It’s a scene that really shows Kiko’s insecurities of not being “enough,” but also her immense strength in recognizing how much she needs to escape her home life. And from there, the story grew!

Writing always has its difficulties, of course, but do you think it’s harder to write difficult/dark subject matter?

Oh, absolutely! Particularly when it’s difficult subject matter that pulls from lived experiences. There were a handful of moments in STARFISH that hit so close to home, and at times I found them triggering to write about. In a lot of ways, telling this story was like sharing pieces of my heart I hadn’t realized needed to be shared. But ultimately, I wanted this book to exist for people who will recognize what Kiko goes through, and who will follow her journey and feel like they’ve finally been seen. Hearing that readers connect and relate to Kiko so much makes me feel a little less lonely somehow—I hope readers will feel this way too!

I cried reading your book, which is one of the best compliments I could give. Did you cry while writing it?

Ahh my heart! That means so much to hear, thank you! I had a lot of anxiety while writing it, but I hadn’t cried over it until the day it sold to my amazing editor, Jennifer Ung, at Simon Pulse. And now every single time I hear from a reader who loved the book, I turn into a waterfall of emotions. Honestly, crying is my default setting at the moment.

There are so many great books that sadly don’t get the attention they deserve. Do you have a favorite lesser-known or under-appreciated novel? 

I’m probably going to be terrible at this question for two reasons: 1) My TBR pile is an actual mountain, and there are so many books that would probably be great for this answer but I haven’t actually read them yet! And 2) Unless it makes the NYT Bestseller list, I’m really terrible at knowing what’s already well-known and what isn’t. So I’ll cheat a little here and just list books Ithink are under-appreciated, mostly in the sense that I wish everyone in the universe was talking about them. In no particular order, THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO by F.C. Yee, SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon, NOTEWORTHY by Riley Redgate, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig, and DESCENDER, which is a graphic novel by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen and I have no idea if the world already knows about this one but I AM OBSESSED.

Starfish (rightfully) has AMAZING reviews already! Do you read reviews? How well do you deal with any negative feedback?

When STARFISH found a home with a publisher, I told myself I wasn’t going to look at a single review. I know how I am, and I take things to heart really easily. I feel like I have quite thick skin when it comes to feedback from my agent, editor, or a critique partner, but not so much when it comes to strangers. My anxiety goes all over the place! And I didn’t want that to get in the way of my writing when I knew I had other projects to work on. But being a debut author can be a bit of a whirlwind, and there’s a ton of self-promo involved. So I’ve had to look at reviews from time to time to kind of stay in the loop of what’s going on promotion-wise. Once STARFISH is released, I want to avoid Goodreads at all costs, and only read the reviews people tag me in on Twitter. So far those ones have all been really nice, so I think people are being gentle with me haha!

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Akemi Dawn Bowman is a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in England with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix. STARFISH will be published later this year (9/26/17, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster), with a second YA contemporary to follow in Fall 2018. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.

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Thanks so much to Akemi Dawn Bowman and Simon & Schuster for access to this book and the chance to be a part of this blog tour!

These things I've done by Rebecca Phillips

Q&A with Rebecca Phillips: Author of These Things I’ve Done

I could not be more honored to be part of the blog tour for These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips!

The release date was the first of August, so go get the book! You need the book!

I love These Things I’ve Done, y’all. Here’s my review if you haven’t read it, where I say things like:

My favorite contemporary of 2017.

It is really special when a book tells you from the very beginning exactly what’s going to happen, and still makes you cry when it happens.

…it killed me. In the best way possible.

So, needless to say, I’m THRILLED to have a Q&A with Rebecca on Off-Color Literature today!

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

Before:
Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.

After:
It’s been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn’t racked with guilt over her role in her best friend’s death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn’t half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey’s brother, every day. Not just because he’s a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she’s betraying her best friend one final time.

 

So without further adieu, here’s my Q&A with Rebecca!

I was so, immediately intrigued by the idea of your book. What inspired you to write These Things I’ve Done? Which part of the story came to you first?

The idea actually came from my lovely author friend, Cara Bertrand. She was driving one day and came across two girls playfully scuffling on the sidewalk next to her. She had a horrifying flash of “OMG, what if one of those girls ended up under my car?” She thought it would make for a powerful story—a girl accidently causing the death of her friend. She suggested I write it because I already had experience writing guilt and grief in my book Out of Nowhere. But this idea was a lot heavier, and at first I was against it. Too disturbing for me. But after a few days I started coming around and the next thing I knew, I had an outline.

Writing always has its difficulties, of course, but do you think it’s harder to write difficult/dark subject matter?

For me, absolutely. It’s hard for me to get into such a difficult headspace. I’m a mom, and the thought of one of my teens going through something so traumatic tears me up.

I cried reading your book, which is one of the best compliments I could give. Did you cry while writing it?

Thank you! It’s one of the best compliments I can receive. Yes, I cried while writing it, which was a first for me. I also cried when I finished, because it was so hard and because I got very attached to the characters.

Since These Things I’ve Done is written in alternate timelines, did you write it the way we read it? Or did you write each timeline separately?

I wrote it the way you read it. It was really challenging to switch tenses and tones with each chapter, but that was the only way I could see myself doing it.

Did this book go through any significant changes while you were writing? 

While I was writing, no. I pounded out the draft in 3-4 months and didn’t change anything during that time. It didn’t go through significant revisions until it reached Catherine, my HarperTeen editor. We went through two big revisions, and I think it’s so much better now. Catherine is amazing.

Do you base your characters on people you know?

Sometimes, but always very loosely. Aubrey’s character was sort of based on one of my daughter’s friends. Ethan’s band was loosely based off a band my husband played guitar for in high school. As for Dara, I was binging Friday Night Lights while writing the first draft, so she started to look like Julie Taylor in my head. And I was going for a gruff, quiet type like Coach Taylor for Dara’s dad.

I think everyone has a special book they remember as the first that emotionally devastated them. What was the first book that you cried over?

It was a middle grade book called With You and Without You by Ann M. Martin. I used to read it every year when I was a kid, and I cried every time. I read it recently and cried again. It’s incredibly touching and well-written.

Does writing exhilarate or exhaust you? Does that change depending on what you’re writing?

Both, and it definitely depends on what I’m writing. There’s a particular scene near the end of These Things I’ve Done (you probably know the one) that emotionally drained me so much that it took me hours to feel happy again after writing it.

Do you go through writing slumps? If so, what do you do to get out of them?

Oh God, yes. I don’t really do anything to get out of them. I basically just wait for them to pass, which they always do (knock on wood). I was extremely burnt out after finishing These Things I’ve Done and wondered if I’d ever write another book. Well, I did write another book (which comes out in 2018 with HarperTeen), and I can’t wait to get started on my ninth book this fall.

I read that you have been writing since you yourself were a teenager! Has your writing process changed over time? 

It got less sucky? I hope? I read stuff I wrote back then and cringe. It was so, so bad.

There are so many great books that sadly don’t get the attention they deserve. Do you have a favorite lesser-known or under-appreciated novel? 

I agree! My answer to this question is always Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas. I have (sometimes literally) shoved this amazing, twisty book on everyone I know. It honestly boggles my mind that it hasn’t sold a zillion copies and been made into an amazing, twisty movie.

So exciting that These Things I’ve Done has such great reviews already! Do you read reviews on all your novels? How well do you deal with any negative feedback?

I read all my reviews, good and bad. The good ones (like yours!) make my day. The negative ones sometimes hurt, but I still learn from them. Not everyone is going to like my books, and that’s fine. I appreciate every review.

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Rebecca Phillips

Rebecca Phillips has been writing YA since she was a YA herself. She’s the author of:

The JUST YOU series
OUT OF NOWHERE
FAKING PERFECT (Kensington)
ANY OTHER GIRL (Kensington)
THESE THINGS I’VE DONE (HarperTeen)

Rebecca lives in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband, two children, and one spoiled rotten cat. None of them say “eh” or “aboot.”

Visit Rebecca on her website www.rebeccawritesya.com and on Twitter @RebeccaWritesYA

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Thanks so much to Rebecca Phillips, her agent Eric Smith, and HarperTeen for access to this book and the chance to be a part of this blog tour!