Visiting Author Series: Stacey Lee

We’re delighted to welcome Stacey Lee to Sixteen to Read’s Visiting Author Series. Stacey published her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, with Putnam in 2015. In May 2016, she followed it up with Outrun the Moon, which Kirkus has called “powerful, evocative, and thought-provoking.” Stacey’s third novel, The Secret of a Heart Note, is due out from Katherine Tegen Books on December 27.

Sixteen to Read’s Sonya Mukherjee recently chatted with Stacey about writing, publishing, and what she’s learned so far.

Stacey, thanks so much for taking the time to drop by. To begin, we’d love to hear about the earliest stages of your career. What was the querying process like for you with your first book, Under a Painted Sky?

I began querying when I was fifteen, and that was a very long time ago, before there were computers. All told, I queried about seven different projects at various stages of my life, from picture books to YA. Each project received more nibbles than the prior one, and so I knew I was moving in the right direction at least. Plus, with the advent of the Internet, it became easier to figure out what I was doing right or wrong through sites like Query Shark.

For more detailed information about perfecting a query letter, my agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency and I chatted about my original query for UAPS at Literary Rambles.

What aspect of the publishing experience was most surprising for you that first time around? And what was the most fun?

I was surprised by how many people it takes to make a book. There are so many people involved with getting a book on the shelf, marketing people, salespeople, publicists—I’m still not sure I met everyone who worked on UAPS! The most fun was meeting some great author friends along the way. I couldn’t have done it without their support!

Your first two novels were both historical, while The Secret of a Heart Note, which comes out next, is contemporary. What drew you to writing historical characters and settings? And after starting with historical, what appealed to you about contemporary?

As a fourth generation Californian, I always wondered about those Chinese ancestors of mine who first touched down on American soil. So that’s what led me to write UAPS, as well as my second historical, Outrun the Moon. But I also love writing in other genres, like contemporary with a little magic, which is how I describe The Secret of a Heart Note. That one arose from my odd synesthetic ability to ‘hear’ different scents and my interest in natural perfumery. It’s different animal than my historicals, but everyone who has read it says they can tell it’s me who wrote it.

What’s your writing process like? Has it changed over time?

I brainstorm on paper. I take lots of walks to develop those ideas, then plot out some emotional beats I’d like to hit. Then I start writing soon after I get a general outline going. It’s definitely an organic process for me, and often what and who I intend to write about changes along the way.

You’ve been quite prolific. Your first book just came out last year, and you have two out in 2016. How do you balance your writing time with all the other tasks related to publishing and promoting your work? Do you have set schedules or plans that help you divide your time?

I don’t watch TV! I just have to clip bits of time here and there and hope and pray it all gets done! With two kids, it’s definitely a challenge because I don’t start writing until around 9 or 10 pm. I stop around 1 or 2 am.

Can you share anything about what you’re working on next?

Another historical that might or might not involve stagecoaches. J

Lightning round:

Favorite writing beverage: iced coffee with almond milk

Favorite place to write: in my home office

Music to write by: I need quiet. I get too distracted by song lyrics.

Last book you read: I’m reading The Reader by Traci Chee.

Author from the past you’d most want to meet: LA Meyer, author of the Bloody Jack series, who passed away in 2015.

First thing you’d do if you could time travel to one of your novels’ settings: What a great question. I’d learn how to ride a horse.

Best thing about living in the 21st century when not time traveling: Anesthesia.


Visiting Author Series: Karole Cozzo

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!
If you’d like to connect with Karole, she’s on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! You can also visit her Goodreads page for more information.
Karole Cozzo

Visiting Author Series: Jamie Ayres


We are thrilled to have Jaime Ayres join us today! Jaime is the talented author of three YA novels in her “My So Called Afterlife” series: 18 THINGS, 18 TRUTHS, and 18 THOUGHTS. Jamie joined Sixteen to Read author, J. (Jenny)Keller Ford, to talk about her debut experience, the inspiration for her “My So Called Afterlife” series, and how being a teacher helps to shape her stories and her personal life.
J. Keller Ford

Jenny Keller Ford

Jenny: Hi Jamie! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. Because Sixteen to Read is a group of debut authors, we’d love to know more about the beginning of your writing career.  First, where did you get your ideas for your series of 18 Things, Thoughts, Truths?

Jaime Ayres

Jaime Ayres

Jamie:  My cousin’s son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008. These types of tragedies remind us that life is short, and it prompted me to write a bucket list. At the top of that list was to write a novel. After crossing off running a marathon, I felt like I could tackle anything! In the summer of 2009, I wrote my first draft, so I figured I might as well get it published. That process took a little longer. In the early part of 2012, an editor for TOR suggested I put a paranormal twist to make 18 Things more original and to turn it into a trilogy, since those were all the rage in YA at the time. I listened, and by June, I had a publishing contract!

Jenny:  How long did it take you to write each story? Did they flow? Did you ever lose inspiration? If so, how did you get it back?

Jamie:  Since I have summers off, I take about two months to write a novel. I only write five pages a day, then I edit what I wrote the next day before I write my next five. Sometimes I lose inspiration because let’s face it, the muse is as dependable as the Florida weather. But I just take the dog for a walk, listen to music, or watch a movie. Then I sit my butt back down in the chair, no matter what. Although, I’ve had a few days where I spent hours ‘writing’ and all I accomplished was a new Spotify playlist and spending another $50 buying books on Amazon.

Jenny:  You are a teacher who educates teens. Do you find your job as a teacher made you a better YA author?  Do you think being a YA author has made you a better teacher?

Jamie:Absolutely! When 18 Things released, I still taught elementary school (third grade). The following school year, I moved to middle school, where I teach eighth grade English Language Arts. Even though I helped with middle/high school youth ministry at church every Wednesday, that’s a totally different setting than being around that age group day in and day out all the time. It made me understand my characters a lot better. Now I cringe at some actions and dialogue in 18 Things because I know it’s not realistic, but at the same time, I’ve yet to read a perfect book!

Jenny.  Are you writing anything else right now? Can you talk about it?  🙂

Jamie:  I wrote another novel last summer, but my school year has been so busy, I haven’t had any time to edit. It’s still a coming of age YA, but a stand-alone and no paranormal twists. And since everyone keeps telling me they want to know what happened to Olga, Nate, and Conner, I plan on writing a novella that shows them at their ten year high school reunion, then releasing it as an ebook for 99 cents. Hopefully it’ll be ready before 2016 is over.

Jenny: Who is your favorite author today?  (If you’re like me that changes on a regular basis. :-))

Jamie:  J.K. Rowling . . . Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit of writers block, I watch JK Rowling “A Year in the Life” on YouTube, and all is ‘write’ with the world again (HA–I’m so punny!)

Jenny: And now for some fun because readers always like to know these tidbits from lightning rounds. Ready? 

M&Ms or skittles? M&Ms! (The answer is always chocolate, no matter the question!)

Cats or dogs? Dogs . . . We have a basset hound, but I do love those Grumpy Cat Memes!

Harry Potter or Katnis Everdeen? Oh, gosh! I’m all about girl power, but Harry Potter is a book I can read over & over again!

Flip flops or sneakers? Flip flops; I’m a Florida girl.

Dragons or unicorns? Just for you Jenny, dragons!!

River or creek? Creek, since we live on one (where we sometimes see osprey, otters, & alligators, oh my!)

Fave color? Red

Jenny:  One final question, Jamie. Knowing what you know now about the publishing process, marketing, etc., what advice would you give to debut authors facing this strange, new and sometimes scary world of publication?

Jamie:  I won’t claim I’m an expert. Even after almost four years of being in this world of publication, I still find it strange and scary. Almost nothing turns out the way I thought . . . sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse. I often go back to a speech I heard literary agent Donald Maass give at the RWA (Romance Writers of America) national conference in 2010. I was just starting out, and he talked about how much of publishing is up to luck and perfect timing. So write your heart out, market to the best of your ability (especially those six weeks leading up to your release and the six weeks after), then sit back and enjoy the ride. I haven’t made the Times Best Seller list, haven’t made a ton of money . . . but the unexpected thing that’s happened is I hear from kids all the time who say they never liked a book until they read mine or they were inspired to write their own life list (or even a novel!). Most surprisingly are those meetings and letters I get that say my book changed their life, or even saved it. So I guess my advice would be to remember WHY you write in the first place because honestly, for most, this business is a bumpy road and you won’t be scoring six figure deals that appear in Publisher’s Weekly. But there are some rewards you can’t put a price tag on. This business will humble you (which IMHO, is always a good thing).

P.S. I hope you don’t read this and think, Oh no–my book isn’t ‘deep’ enough to change anyone’s life! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book and the pure entertainment of it lifted me out of a dark pit.

Jenny:  Do you have any pictures you’d like to share so other debut authors can see what it’s like to be a published author? J

my banner

Jamie:  Sure! This is the banner my publisher sent me after my third book came out.

Jamie Recording

This one is of me recording some special part for my audible books.

Read Fest

This one is when I was a featured author at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival.


Jaime Ayres

Jamie’s books:

18 things 18 Thoughts cover 18 truths

Jamie’s links to her social media and books:

Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest  Goodreads  Instagram

Book Links:

18 Things  18 Truths  18 Thoughts

Marisa Reichardt interviews Amy Spalding

Vector Blank Traffic Sign isolated on whiteAmy Spalding is the talented author of four YA novels, The Reece Malcolm List, Ink Is Thicker Than Water, Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys), and her latest, The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions). Amy joined Sixteen to Read author Marisa Reichardt to talk about her debut experience, getting from Book 1 to Book 4, and how her love of musical theatre helps shapes her stories.

Marisa Reichardt

Marisa Reichardt

Marisa: Hi Amy! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. Because Sixteen to Read is a group of debut authors, we’d love to know more about the beginning of your writing career. Can you think back to your querying process and tell us what it was like for you? How about your first call from your agent, Kate Testerman?


Amy Spalding

Amy Spalding

Amy: I was terrified of the querying process since I had spent about six months leading up to querying researching it. I kept seeing tiny percentages of partials and fulls actually requested, so I figured I was signing myself up for a hopeless venture. I am very delicate and thin-skinned so I was not in any way looking forward to the deluge of rejections I pictured zapping themselves toward me. Then I began the process and, very quickly, received my first rejection, and I realized 1) I was fine, and 2) the process worked! And then, not too many days later, I received a partial request from my top agent pick, Kate Testerman! I couldn’t believe it.

To save time, I won’t go through every detail, but the short version is that I ended up revising my manuscript based on notes from another agent, and it prolonged the process a bit. Luckily it must have gone well, because I was offered representation! I was in shock but my call with Kate went extremely well, and I knew nearly right away she was definitely the agent for me. She was friendly and I assumed we’d get along well, but more importantly she knew the business, had connections, and had smart notes on the manuscript. Sometimes, honestly, I still can’t believe it.

Marisa: Do you have a day job or are you a full-time author?

Amy: I have a day job. I am a big believer in the day job! It has health insurance! And different things work for different people, but for me, it is very important to leave my apartment every day and have to put on clothes that aren’t t-shirts and sweatpants and talk to people who are not my pets. Sometimes I hear people worry aloud that you’re not a “real writer” if you still have a dayjob, but “real writers” come in all varieties.

Marisa: You are involved in improvisational comedy in Los Angeles. Have you found ways that improv has influenced your writing?

Amy: Absolutely! I think improv helps you get better at making decisions and justifying them, because that’s what all improv scenes are. You’re literally making things up and then justifying them with your subsequent moves. I think it makes you more open to changing scenes as you write them, v. how you initially pictured them. I also think improv teaches you to start as late in a scene as possible and to get out on a high note, which hopefully can make you tighten your writing more and learn to self-edit more on the page. I think it teaches you just how creative you can be out of nowhere, which means with writing when you actually have time to think you can bring even MORE to it.

Marisa: Music tends to play a big role in everything you write. Do you have a musical background? Band? Theater?

Amy: I played piano and sang in choir when I was a kid and teen, and play around with the guitar a little. I really wanted to get into musical theater but growing up I felt like, unless you were societal-conventionally BEAUTIFUL or had one of those voices that STOPPED TRAFFIC you might as well never try. And since that wasn’t me I just didn’t. In recent years I’ve really regretted not putting myself out there more, which is something I really discovered doing improv, because I love being on stage. This is one reason I had a one-woman cabaret show last year, to let myself live that dream for one night! So even though this wasn’t exactly my background, I have so much love and enthusiasm for it, I love writing characters who’re living it.

Marisa: Can you share your writing routine? And has it changed over the years as your writing career has developed?

Amy: I’m not sure I really have a routine. Or if I do, it changes day by day, even minute by minute. I’ve outlined, I’ve written as I’ve gone, I’ve ended up with first drafts so messy I have to fix them before even a friend sees them, and I’ve written first drafts that go almost untouched straight to my agent. I write during pieces of free time, and I also write when I’ve carved out chunks of my day specifically for it. I think I expected my process to really get fine-tuned the more books I’ve written, but each book is its own thing, and I sort of have to find my way to each one anew.

Marisa: Does one of your books have a very special place in your author heart? If so, why?

Amy: The Reece Malcolm List was a book that was a part of my life for many years before its publication, because in many ways it was the book that taught me how to write a book. I’m so glad it ended up being my debut novel because I wanted it to have this really special place in my life.

Marisa: Do you have any advice to those going the traditional publishing route?

Amy: Be patient; this business takes forever. (Except when your copy edits are due.) This is a marathon, not a sprint, but since running is HORRIBLE, let’s say it’s a marathon of eating nachos, not a sprint of eating nachos. Don’t worry about how long it’s taking everyone else; focus on your own path. You’ll get there.

Marisa: Your fourth novel just hit shelves. Can you talk about similarities and differences between putting Book 1 out into the world versus Book 4?

 Amy: Putting out Book 4 is way more chill. I recommend it! I still care deeply about this book and about it finding readers, but I’ve done this before! I know I can come out alive! So it’s much easier now in so many ways. But, again, each book is its own thing! So I still have my own very specific wishes and dreams about readers loving Jules and Alex and this story, the way I’ve wanted this for the characters in all of my books. And when I hear from readers, it still means as much each and every single time. It’s like the newness of that refuses to wear off.

Marisa: We’d love to hear more about your newest release THE NEW GUY (AND OTHER SENIOR YEAR DISTRACTIONS). What should our readers know about this next amazing book of yours?

NewGuy jkt des.1.inddAmy: My main character Jules has been described as “a teenage Leslie Knope” and “a nice Paris Geller” which I think tells you what you need to know about her. But also! Cute dogs! A former boyband member! Descriptions of donuts! And of course lots of kissing.

Amazon,   Barnes & NobleIndiebound




Lightning Round Questions:


  1. Your favorite time to write?  WHENEVER I CAN! When it’s flowing easily, that is my favorite time.
  2. Favorite place to write?  WHEREVER I CAN! (Sense a theme?) I write a lot on my couch but I’m also in favor of coffeeshops and lunchbreaks at my desk.
  3. Favorite writing snack?  I can’t really snack while I write so I’m usually drinking water or chai.
  4. Last book you read?  Robin Talley’s wonderful What We Left Behind.
  5. Favorite book?  BOOK? SINGULAR???? Fun Home, Middlesex, A Summer to Die, A Little Life, Borrowed Time, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, The Secret History, Wild, the Betsy-Tacy series, When You Reach Me.
  6. If you could live in a fictional world, what world would it be?  Well, not the Hunger Games world because I’d get killed immediately trying to snag a Diet Coke at the Cornucopia.
  7. If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would you be?  Lola from Lola & the Boy Next Door if only just for the outfits and wigs!!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Amy! It was great to get your perspective! Be sure to look for Amy’s latest book, The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions), available wherever books are sold!

NewGuy jkt des.1.indd


Visiting Author: Jennifer McGowan


We are thrilled to have Jennifer McGowan join us today for our Visiting Author Series! Jennifer is the author of the Maid of Honor Series, which currently includes Maid of Secrets (2013), A Thief Before Christmas (2013), Maid of Deception (2014) and Maid of Wonder (2015).

Darcy: Hey, Jennifer! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

Jennifer: Thank you, Darcy! I appreciate the opportunity.

Darcy: Can I get you anything to sip or munch on while we chat?

Jennifer: Yaknow, I better stick with my water. ~hefts 20 oz. bottle~ I’m on this insane kick to try to drink 100 ounces a day, and let me tell you…that’s a lot. But thank you!

Darcy: I’m in a buoyant state of H2O rapture! Okay, so since we’re a debut group, we want to hear about the beginning of your writing career. Now think back to then … what was the querying/submission process like for you?

Jennifer: Ha! What a great question. Let me turn back the Wheel of Time… and there I was! It was at the very end of 2010, and I’d written an Elizabethan spy story eventually called MAID OF SECRETS. I decided that I’d start querying agents on Dec. 17…because then, if no one responded, I’d not be super embarrassed, because it was almost Christmas! I sent out nine query emails and by the end of that 90 minute period… I already had my first rejection. Fortunately, I also got my first partial request within a day. And then others followed, much to my surprise. In the end, I had perhaps seven or eight requests for full manuscripts and a total of five agents ask to represent me, which was a complete and utter shock and blessing. Later, when I went on submission, I ended up having an auction which was terrifying and amazing all at once, but not as scary as the agent search was.

Darcy: Ah, a Wheel of Time…how I’d love to borrow that and weave more of it! So did you have a “day” job before you became a full-time author?

Jennifer: Yes! At that point I was working as a communications manager at a university leadership program, as well as working freelance as a copywriter. I’ve worked in marketing, branding and communications since graduating college.

Darcy: No doubt all things that have served you well in the writing world! How did you react to the success of MAID OF SECRETS?

Jennifer: Well, the book itself was a bit of a hard sell to teen readers, because it’s Elizabethan, and that sometimes seems like a history lesson waiting to happen. But I was blessed to have a three book series with the books, including MAID OF DECEPTION and this past year’s MAID OF WONDER, and I’ve learned so much about publishing and writing that it’s all been worth it!

Darcy: As someone who’s had the immense pleasure of reading all three of your books, I can say that my history lessons were NEVER that enthralling! Tell me about your writing routine. Has it changed over the years?

Jennifer: Oh, gosh, yes. It took me years to get published – I probably started writing seriously in 2000, and sold in 2011. My first book came out in 2013, and since then I’ve published under three different pen names, in three different genres. I’ve even tried Indie publishing, which has been both exhausting and a blast. Since my first book came out in May, 2013, I’ve published 3 YA novels and one YA novella, 5 romance novels, and 3 urban fantasy novels and a UF novella. (whew!) As a result, I’ve learned to write a LOT faster.

My favorite time to write is in the morning, and I generally like to get all my writing done FIRST before any other work. That doesn’t always happen, but that’s my goal! I write or edit (or both!) just about every day.

Darcy: Whoa! I feel like I need a triple shot of espresso just hearing about your writing practice and publications!!! So, any roadblocks all the way?

Jennifer: Well, the biggest was probably one of the most unexpected: in the months leading up to my debut launch, my publisher got in an enormous fight with Barnes & Noble. That fight meant…my book wasn’t shelved in B&N. The resulting lack of sales pretty much spelled the end of the series before it began! That was a big disappointment, but it taught me a lot about what we can and cannot manage as authors.

Darcy: *faints* OMG, that’s got to be every author’s worst nightmare! Yet here you are, persevering and thriving. Any advice to those going the traditional publishing route?

Jennifer: Yes! Keep writing—no matter what you do, keep writing! It’s so easy to get caught up in the delays of a traditional career…it seems to take so long for anything to happen, and then it all happens at once. But the only thing you can truly control is how many words you put on the page. If you want to be a professional, published author, you have to keep at it, day after day.

Darcy: Were you a member of any debut groups?

Jennifer: Yup! I was delighted to be a member of the Lucky 13s, as well as the 2k13s, and I blogged with a group of lovely YA historical authors at the website Corsets, Cutlasses and Candlesticks. It was a great experience!

Awesome! And now I have a few lightning-round questions for you. Answer as quickly as possible. Let’s see some smoke rollin’ off those fingertips!

  1. Your favorite time to write? MORNING!
  2. Favorite place to write? On my couch! lol
  3. Favorite writing snack? Almonds!
  4. Last book you read? SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS by the incomparable Darcy Woods!
  5. Favorite book? Man, that’s tough. Probably The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe… C.S. Lewis’s series was my first paranormal series when I was a kid, and it’s always stuck with me.
  6. If you could live in a fictional world, what world would it be? The Star Wars universe! But only if I had an awesome ship. Some of those planets look like no fun at all.
  7. If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would you be? Actually, it would be my Tarot-reading artifact hunter Sara Wilde, from my urban fantasy Immortal Vegas series. Maybe then I’d be able to write the books more quickly! But either way, it would certainly be a grand adventure.

Great! Again, Jennifer, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me and the Sixteen to Read gals!

V picJennifer McGowan was born in Ohio, grew up in Montana, and studied in Paris. She has held numerous writing jobs over the years, but author is by far her favorite. A past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner, Jenn  lives and writes in Ohio, and you can connect with her online at, find her on twitter via @Jenn_McGowan, or visit her Facebook page at



Visiting Author Series with Jennifer McGowen: Next Week!

Vector Blank Traffic Sign isolated on whiteJoin us next week for an interview with the incomparable Jennifer McGowan, author of  the Maids of Honor series, which currently includes Maid of Secrets (2013), A Thief Before Christmas (2013), Maid of Deception (2014) and Maid of Wonder (2015).

Jennifer is a past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and has lots to say about the writing process, routines and how to push through unexpected writing challenges!

In the meantime, you can connect with Jennifer online at, find her on twitter via @Jenn_McGowan, or visit her Facebook page at

Visiting Author: Kim Culbertson

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Today we are so thrilled to have Kim Culbertson join us as part of Sixteen to Read’s Visiting Author Series. Kim is the author of four YA books and one YA novella. She will release her fifth YA novel, THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW on January 26, 2016.

Shannon: Welcome, Kim! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for some time and hope our readers know your books: SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART, CATCH A FALLING STAR and the forthcoming THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW. Just the titles alone make me want to swoon!
Kim: Awww, thanks, Shannon – I look forward to becoming a fan of all the authors at Sixteen to Read!

Shannon: Because we’re a debut group, we want to hear about the beginning of your writing career. Could you think back to your querying process and tell us what that was like for you? I’m sure our readers would love to know the number of agents you queried, how many requests you received, etc.
Kim: My publishing experience hasn’t been very traditional. I was very devoted to being a full time high school teacher, so when I wrote my first novel, I didn’t go out much with it—went to a conference, talked to a couple of agents who were encouraging—but I got busy and stopped looking. Through sheer luck, SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD was published by a wonderful small press (Hip Pocket Press) in 2007 and won a few indie awards. After that, I decided to make more of an effort to get an agent. I queried 16 agents before signing with Melissa Sarver White. Oh, wait—did that sound simple? Because it was AGONIZING! As all writers know when they are querying, there is a lot of “it’s just not what we’re looking for” or “I like this, but—” and an enormous symphony of —crickets, crickets— and more waiting and rejection and maybe-I-should-become-an-accountant-on-a-deserted-island musings. But then it sort of all happened at once. I got an offer from three agents in two days.

Shannon: What made you sign with Melissa Sarver White of Folio Literary?

Kim: When Melissa called that first day to offer me representation, I got the vibe from her that she would be funny, smart, real, and devoted. She has been all of those things and more. This is not an easy industry. There is a public perception that doesn’t always match up with the daily reality. Melissa has been someone I can always talk to about the industry, project ideas, frustrations, triumphs. She has been a rock and at all times I have felt like she’s my biggest fan, which is what I wanted in an agent. I think the agent-author relationship is different for all authors, and the key is finding the one that works for your own personal goals.

Shannon: So well said, Kim! Do you have a day job or are you a full-time author?

Kim: Funny you should ask that—I’m going through a huge transition with that right now. I have been teaching high school for 18 years and I love it. I. Love. It. People think it’s a little nuts that I write for teenagers and teach them—that’s a lot of teenage energy in one life, but I’ve always managed to balance my teaching with my writing and being a mom. Lately, though, things have just felt like too much. In January, I’m taking a leave of absence from my job at Forest Charter teaching creative writing so I can focus on my writing (which was a really difficult decision because I ADORE my students). Not sure if the leave will be for just a semester or for longer…time will tell. I’m grateful to have this opportunity; it will be the first time I’ve focused full-time on my writing. And by full-time, I mean, the time in between being a mom, a wife, a friend….

Shannon: It’s a lot to balance for sure, but we’re thrilled you’ll have more time to dedicate to your writing. Do you have a favorite book from your catalog? If so, what makes it special in your author heart?

Kim: That’s hard—I think it’s a bit like having a favorite child or favorite friend or favorite student. I’m sure all authors say this, but I love each of my books for different reasons. They remind me of who I was/where I was when I wrote them.

Shannon: Fair enough! 😀 Can you share your writing routine? And has it changed over the years as your writing career has developed?

Kim: I’m taking a moment to laugh at the word “routine”—okay, I’m back. Yeah, I’m the worst with the whole idea of routine. When I first started writing, I was teaching high school theatre and English full-time, and directing multiple shows a year, which put writing on the back burner for me. Over the years, I’ve tried to come up with more of a balance between my writing and teaching, but I added being a mom to the mix, which changed the shape of my days too. Currently, I try to write at least a couple of hours a day, but some days it’s not at all and some days it’s for eight hours without stopping. This is entirely because I struggle to be more disciplined about it. I tend to make the time, but I get distracted. Somehow I get pages in each week and get the work done. I often set a goal at the beginning of the week (I want to write 15 fresh pages, I want to fix four scenes, etc.). I’m getting better about giving myself a break when I don’t reach that goal and also celebrating when I do.

Shannon: Do you have any advice to those going the traditional publishing route?

Kim: Traditional publishing, I think, is all about expectation management and persistence. It’s about believing in the work you do and surrounding yourself with people who love the work they do. It’s also a balance of being an advocate for your own book, while remembering there are many books out there. The industry only has so much time and space to cover and support them. There will always be someone in the industry out-performing you, walking an award carpet, getting onto a “best of” list, or having a gazillion followers on social media. It’s tough sometimes. Try to remember that we’re all in this same boat of loving books—but it is a daily practice.

Shannon: Were you a member of any debut groups?

Kim: I wasn’t—which is a bummer because it’s such a great idea. For my second novel, I was part of Stasia Ward Kehoe’s wonderful STAGES ON PAGES, which was a unique concept because it connected MG and YA authors who write in some way about the performing arts. I enjoyed the experience of participating in those book events with other authors—power in numbers! I think one of the many perks of being a YA author is that the community is so warm-hearted and collaborative.

Poss of NowShannon: We’d love to hear about your new release THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW. What should our readers know about this book with the amazingly fantastic cover? 

Kim: This particular book is close to my teacher-heart and grew out of an increasing trend I’ve seen in my experience as an educator—overscheduled, stressed out kids who are so busy looking ahead, they forget to explore who they are right now.

Mara James, is a stressed-out overachiever who thinks she has it all figured out. One day she has a melt-down in her calculus class at her elite private high school in San Diego—someone films it, and it goes viral. To escape the shame, she heads to live with her estranged ski bum father in Tahoe, CA armed with her “Now List.” She’s determined to live in the now, and she’s done the research on how best to do it!

Shannon: I just LOVE the sound of your latest book and I have no doubt it will be brilliant! And you have a special giveaway planned for our readers, is that right?

Yes! I have a signed hardcopy of THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW and a Tahoe-themed cozy reading kit to go with it.

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Thanks so much for talking so openly about your debut experience and THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW. I’m sure our readers are as excited as we are!

Before we end, how about some lightning-round questions?

  1. Your favorite time to write? When I’m alone in the house.
  2. Favorite place to write? My kitchen, especially in the fall when the colored leaves outside reflect in all the mirrored surfaces.
  3. Favorite writing snack? Coffee. Is that a snack? Let’s add a cinnamon roll to the coffee and that’s perfection.
  4. Last book you read? Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
  5. Favorite book? Harry Potter. All of them. They combine all the things I like about contemporary/boarding school fiction with magic. And J.K. Rowling has such a great sense of humor.
  6. If you could live in a fictional world, what world would it be?                          Definitely Hogwarts.
  7. If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would you be? Just to stick with the Harry Potter theme, I always thought it would be cool to be Dumbledore, just roaming around Hogwarts, knowing all the secrets.

Great! Again, KIM! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me and the Sixteen to Read girls!

KIM CULBERTSON is the author of the Young Adult novels Songs for a Teenage Nomad (Sourcebooks 2010), Instructions for a Broken Heart (Sourcebooks 2011), which was named a Booklist Top Ten Romance Title for Youth: 2011 and also won the 2012 Northern California Book Award for YA Fiction, Catch a Falling Star (Scholastic 2014) and The Possibility of Now (Scholastic 2016). Kim has also been a high school teacher for eighteen years, teaching high school English, Creative Writing, Drama and College Advising. In 2012, Kim wrote her eBook novella The Liberation of Max McTrue for her students, who, over the years, have taught her far more than she has taught them. Kim lives in Nevada City with her husband and daughter.

You can find her an all her lovely books here:
Twitter: @kculbertson

Instagram: @kimculbertsonya

Visiting Author Series: Stephen Chbosky

Stephen Chbosky is the New York Times bestselling author and screenwriter of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. He joined Sixteen to Read author Jennie K. Brown to talk about his debut experience, the writing process and more…

Jennie: Hey, Stephen! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today!

Stephen: It’s my pleasure, Jennie.

Jennie: Can I get you anything to sip or munch on while we chat?

 Stephen: No, I have my coffee.

Jennie: Do you always write with coffee?

Stephen: Almost always.

Jennie: Because we’re a debut group, we want to hear about the beginning of your writing career. Now think back to then … what was the querying process like for you?

Stephen: Well, my situation was unique because I find myself more as a movie guy. I was working more as a screenwriter and director, so my hunting for a publisher and agent was not as intense. That said, I did make a lot of phone calls and asked anybody I knew with ties to the publishing world for referrals. It took me over a year to find an agent. Ironically, at an agency that had passed a year earlier. And I ultimately found my publisher – Simon and Schuster, specifically Pocket books and MTV books, and my editor was Greer Kessel Hendricks.

Jennie: How did you react to the ginormous success of PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER?

Stephen: I think because I did it by myself more as a movie guy, I didn’t get very swept up in it. I was very proud, of course, and I was very grateful, of course, but it didn’t really seep into my identity. I only wish at the time I had had a mentor in publishing who would have sat me down and told me you have to write another book immediately. I didn’t know. Instead I was pursuing a screenplay career.

Jennie: Tell us about your writing routine. Has it changed over the years?

Stephen: My writing process has evolved over the years in relationship to my age and the amount of time I have to spend. When I wrote PERKS, the novel, I was single, living in a single room in NYC, and I had all the time in the world. So I could buy a carton of cigarettes and sit for 16 hours a day and work obsessively. Fifteen years later- no more cigs, have a wife and two children, and now I have coffee and about seven hours a day to write. I made a decision years ago that my writing would come second to my family.

Jennie: I love that.

Stephen: What I’ve found is that both have benefited greatly from that decision. Now my process is heavier on outlines and notes because I don’t have the extra hours.

Jennie: So, pantser or plotter?

Stephen: I started out as a pantser and now I’m a plotter out of necessity. Like with my new novel.

Jennie: Can you talk about it?

Steve: Sorry, but no. 🙂 

Jennie: We totally understand! Congrats on a new book! And now we have a few lightning-round questions for you. Answer as quickly as possible.

  1. Your favorite time to write? Afternoon
  2. Favorite place to write? My office
  3. Favorite writing snack? Peanut butter
  4. Last book you read? Wuthering Heights
  5. Favorite book? Too many to name
  6. If you could live in a fictional world, what world would it be? A long time ago, in a galaxy far way…
  7. If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would you be? James Bond

Jennie: Great answer- James Bond. Thanks so much for talking to Sixteen to Read, Stephen!

Stephen: Very welcome and I’m so glad, and thank you for including me. Good luck!

Stephen Chbosky and Jennie Brown talk debuting

Stephen Chbosky and Jennie Brown talk debuting