Congrats to Jennifer DiGiovanni for her second release of 2016, her sophomore novel:My Junior Year of Loathing! We’re so thrilled for Jen and her School Dayz series! Check it out on Amazon today!!
Here’s a teaser: Junior year is supposed to be tough. Exams, term papers, homework, college tours, and participation in extra-curricular activities can all add up to non-stop stress. But Melinda Banner has goals to achieve and dreams to make real. This year, she’ll be unstoppable.
While trying to escape the stress of it all, Melinda meets Connor. After a few more run-ins around town, the two settle into an uneasy friendship, if you can even call it that.
But Connor’s closed and mysterious. Whenever Melinda asks too many questions, he suddenly disappears. When they’re together, she’s torn between wanting him to open up and running away as fast as she can. Can you like someone and loathe them at the same time? Is he even worth the emotional tug on her heartstrings or distraction from all things Junior year?
We’re thrilled to welcome Karole Cozzo to Sixteen to Read’s Visiting Author Series. Karole’s debut novel, How to Say I Love You Out Loud, was recently named a Carolyn W. Field Honor Book by the PA Library Association. Her sophomore novel, How to Keep Rolling After a Fall, will be released next month. And, to top it off, her publisher, Macmillan’s Swoon Reads, just announced her third novel, The Truth About Happily Ever After, slated for a 2017 release.
Recently, Karole took some time away from her busy writing and editing schedule to chat with Jennifer DiGiovanni.
Jennifer: Congratulations on all your success, Karole! And thank you for stopping by to share your thoughts about the debut author experience with us. First of all, we’d love to know how you came up with the idea for your first novel.
Karole: At the time I was working in an Approved Private School for students with disabilities. The family members were so resilient and amazing, and a lot of times, siblings had to put up with a LOT in the name of meeting the needs of a brother or sister. I started thinking how difficult this must be at times, often having your needs put second, especially during adolescence, and I thought it would be interesting to write a story from the sibling’s perspective, which seemed like something new and different to me. And I will always want to include some element of romance in my stories, so I looked for a way to work in a little bit of love, too!
Jennifer: Your stories are always swoony and romantic! Thinking back to the debut of your first novel, what surprised you the most about the publishing process?
Karole: Two primary experiences come to mind – first, the way the editing process actually worked was a bit of a surprise. I went in thinking editors would mostly focus on rewording this or that exchange or maybe just cutting large chunks. I didn’t realize it was such a collaborative process that involved strengthening the book as a whole from its very core and how much rewriting/reworking is involved at times. At first, it was scary as anything – I didn’t know if I would rise to the occasion or end up destroying the original story. But over time, I’ve actually come to truly love the editing process and the product I end up with afterward.
Second, it took me some time to accept that realization that publication of a debut novel does not grant you direct access to some of the experiences we hope to have as published authors. As many of us know, the road to publication is so long and arduous, that when we reach the coveted holy grail, we want to feel like we’ve ‘made it.’ The truth is, there’s still a tall ladder to climb in terms of increasing readership and sales, developing a following, being asked to participate in larger book conferences, etc, etc. You definitely don’t become World Famous Author overnight. There’s a lot of ongoing development as an author, but after getting a grasp on this, I feel motivated and excited to keep trying to rise to new challenges.
Jennifer: Your publishing journey included crowd sourcing, which is an alternative many writers may not necessarily consider. Can you tell us why it worked for you?
Karole: At the time How to Say I Love You Out Loud was selected for publication, I was a full-time working mom of two children under four. I barely had time to write, let alone take on the daunting and overwhelming query process. The fact that the Swoon Reads community gave me direct access to editors at a large publishing house was so appealing to me! And in the meantime, it was a great opportunity to get to know other YA authors and receive feedback on my stories. It really felt like win-win to me.
Jennifer: I also love the fact that you’re a school psychologist. How have your work experiences shaped your novels and characters?
Karole: As far as How to Say I Love You Out Loud and How To Keep Rolling After a Fall were concerned, I was inspired to write these books because of ‘hot topics’ that were the focus of a lot of discussion and/or trainings (e.g., autism awareness/advocacy, cyberbullying, mean girls, etc.). I wanted to reach teens and provoke thought, reflection, and discussion in a manner that wouldn’t seem preachy or prescriptive. The idea of approaching these topics through fiction, especially with flawed/imperfect characters at the helm, was appealing to me and I hope appealing to readers as well. And just by nature, the part of me that was drawn to the field of psychology… I love thinking about motivation and development and personality. I always feel like the emotional aspects of my stories are stronger than my plots.
Jennifer: What’s your writing routine like? I know you’re a huge planner / outliner.
Karole: Yes, I am. I like to create tables that have a column for plot and a column for character development for each chapter. I also *try* to make myself write stories in sequential order. Sometimes there’s a chapter I’m just itching to write, but I try to think of it as a reward to getting that far! On the rare occasion, I cheat.
Jennifer: I’ve also been known to cheat, especially in the first draft! Are you working on anything else right now that you can talk about?
Karole: Right now my third Swoon Reads novel, The Truth About Happily Ever After, is in editing. This story’s really fun to work on, because it’s less of an “issues” book than my other two. I hope it pans out as a great summer read – it’s set in a theme park during the summer, and the main character, Alyssa, plays Cinderella at the park. I’m not quite sure what I’m working on after edits are done, but I have a few ideas churning around.
Jennifer: I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! We here at Sixteen to Read love our lightning round questions! I know you’re a coffee drinker, so we’ll start with …
Favorite Starbucks beverage?
Grande vanilla latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon
Favorite writing snack?
Haribo red licorice wheels
Favorite movie based on a book?
In Her Shoes, because this was the ONE instance I thought the movie was better than the book.
Last book you read?
I just finished No Love Allowed by fellow Swoon author, Kate Evangelista – fun summer read!
Favorite time / place to write?
Mornings during the summer, in my sunroom
Jennifer: Thank you so much for visiting with us, Karole. We can’t wait to read ALL of your books!
Today is the release day of Jen DiGiovanni’s MY SENIOR YEAR OF AWESOME! We hope you’ve already pre-ordered your copy of this amazing contemporary YA!
Jennifer DiGiovanni is a freelance writer and YA author currently working on the School Dayz series. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, working on home design projects, or trying to meet the daily goals on her Fitbit. My Senior Year of Awesome is her first novel. Congrats, Jennifer!!