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Hi Everyone! Happy Monday! This is the last week of school here. My daughter and I can't wait until the end of week. She's taking the ACT one last time on Saturday and then we can relax and get a few projects done. The summer is already looking busy with lots of swimming.


Tyrean Martinson's new YA book CHAMPIONS IN FLIGHT just released. Here's a blurb: As the last pieces of information about the Healing Caves fall into place, Clara is attacked by an assassin. Clara won the battle for Septily, but her fight isn't over yet. Champion in Flight is the second novel in The Champion Trilogy
And links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BCD1YJA
Smashwords  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/441880

And Donna's Weaver's new adult contemporary TORN CANVAS also just
released. Here's a tagline: Even a hero needs rescuing sometimes. And here's some links:
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/torn-canvas-safe-harbors-2-donna-k-weaver/1119674005?ean=294004596538 

And I have a winner to announce.
The winner of a book in The Book of Elsewhere series is Manju Howard!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Bethany Neal here to share about her YA ghost story/mystery MY LAST KISS that releases tomorrow. I’m especially excited because Bethany and I were critique partners for a very short time so I saw a bit of her road to publication. And I’m hoping to go to her release party tomorrow. How cool is that?

I loved the combination ghost story and mystery in MY LAST KISS. And even though Cassidy’s made mistakes, I couldn’t help really liking her as she forced herself to face hard truths. I felt like I was trying to figure out her death right with her. And Bethany did a fantastic job planting just enough seeds about that fatal night that I wanted to keep reading. I really recommend this.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy?

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she'll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made--good and bad--that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal's suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

Hi Bethany! Happy Debut and thanks for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

First off, thank you for the happy debut wishes. I simply cannot wait for everyone to read MY LAST KISS! As for little old me, I am a lifelong pop culture obsessive. So I’ve always known I’d end up somewhere in the entertainment industry, but I can’t act to save my cat, so I decided to write. Plus, telling fictional stories seemed like the best way to take advantage of my champion lying skills. It’s not a lie if you believe it!

In all seriousness though, it took me awhile to get bitten by the writing bug. After I graduated college with a sadly useless degree in interior design, I opened my own photography business then shortly after decided to tell my stories on paper instead of film (er, digital files). People sometimes cringe when I say this, but it was actually reading The Twilight Saga that got my writerly cogs turning. I love sparkly vampires and I don’t care who knows it!

2. Awesome how you were always artistic. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I got the idea for MY LAST KISS while driving to my mom’s house over Thanksgiving break a couple years ago. I was at the beginning stages of a few different writing projects and couldn’t decide which to run with. Trying to clear my mind, I popped in a CD of one of my favorite bands Metric and while listening to ‘Help, I'm Alive’ it came to me. What if you were alive, but you weren’t supposed to be? What if something horrible happened and you were sent back to right the wrong? What if your dead(ish) heart was “beating like a hammer” for the love you left behind? I jotted down the beginnings of the idea on a napkin while I was driving—not recommended—and then spent the entire holiday weekend ignoring my family and writing.

3. What a cool way to come up with a story idea. I loved how you gave Cassidy and us just enough little details/clues to keep us reading. Share some tips on this and writing mysteries in general.

I think the most important thing about writing mysteries—and really any genre—is to keep the reader asking a question that only you [the author] can answer, but you must also reward them along the way for patiently waiting for the big reveal at the end. If you do it right, you’ll accomplish both with one clue. The key to accomplishing this is to make sure your tasty clue-reward is nice and salty. In other words, the clue should make them reach deeper into the bag for more and more! The clue should reveal and prompt more questions.

4. That’s a fantastic tool. And not that easy to put into practice. Cassidy has definitely made some mistakes, some that could make her unsympathetic. Yet, I really liked her as a character and had empathy for her and why she did what she did. What was her character development like and did you have any struggles with finding the right balance so she remained such a great character?

I have a soft spot for “unlikeable” main characters. Maybe I was a sadistic alpha mean girl in another life,
but I enjoy reading their seldom-heard points of view. So I tend to write my protagonists in shades of gray. In real life, nobody is all good or all bad. Nobody interesting anyway!

With Cassidy, I think her steadfast devotion to Ethan is why she manages to stay on the green side of the Likeable vs. Unlikeable spectrum. Her actions weren’t always the epitome of a faithful girlfriend, but her heart never faltered. Ethan is literally the only boy she will ever love. Ever. And I made sure that every word I wrote underlined that infallible truth. Plus, one of my favorite tricks is to create likeability through other characters. If your protagonist doesn’t have any friends who care about her, why should I? There should be at least one person who can showcase for the reader why the main character is likeable.

5. I liked that part of her too. And in general, I find myself sympathetic to these not so perfect characters because none of us are perfect in real life. What was it like editing your story with your editor and what did you learn from the process?

Well, I finally learned what a dangling participle is. Spoiler alert: I use them a lot. The most important and empowering thing I learned while working with my fantabulous editor Janine O’Malley though was that the story, at the end of the day, is mine to tell how I see fit. She will always make suggestions that she thinks will strengthen the plot or characters and if I’m not being an airhead, I will most likely take her advice, but writing isn’t like every other job I’ve had where your boss tells you what you have to do and if you don’t you’re in trouble. As long as I could justify my reasons, the decisions were mine to make.
It made me realize how indescribably important it is to believe in your own writing. You need that confidence in order to make those kinds of decisions.

6. I never thought about writing that way. Your agent is Stacey Glick. Share how she became your agent and about your road to publication.

Everyone I know who writes tells me I’m weird because of this, but I love writing query letters. So, the process of querying agents wasn’t as painful for me as one might assume. Though there was a speed bump in my road to publication. I landed Stacey as my agent for a different YA novel that didn’t end up selling, but the positive rejections (yes, I just said that and it’s true!) led to selling MY LAST KISS. My editor remembered reading the other manuscript and was eager to read MLK because of it. See, it pays to keep at it!

Total I queried approximately 17 agents and got eight passes, but I also got three requests for a full. (In publishing speak that means you’ve properly wooed an agent with your pitch and sample chapters and he/she wants to read the whole manuscript. *insert YAY! here*) Stacey is a wonderfully supportive, smiley little pit bull warrior of an agent and I am so happy she dug me out of the slush pile!

7. Yes, you are a bit weird to love query letters. Tell us how your blog tour was organized and what you’ve learned as an author from your blog tour. Did you hire a book review blogger to organize it? If so, how did decide who to use?

I started planning this blog tour by my lonesome, contacting Michigan-based bloggers that I know from years of attending local YA author events and then broadened my invites to include suggestions from my publicist at Macmillan. About mid-way through The Fantastic Flying Book Club asked if I’d like to partner with them for a review-based tour. So the lil’ tour that could morphed into a 16 day tour/reviewpalooza.

Getting to know all the amazing YA bloggers has been the best part. You guys are such a quirky-cool group of book goddesses. I want to invite you all over for a book-themed sleepover so we can prank call John Green and use my glow-in-the-dark Ouija board to channel Mara Dyer.
Thank you to all the readers and bloggers that’ve been groupies on my tour and for your support for MY LAST KISS!

8. Awesome that you connected with The Fantastic Flying Book Club. What are you working on now?
Ooo, I have something creepy brewing that I have my fingers, toes, arms, legs, and whatever else crossed that you all will be able to read it soon. I’ll just say that it involves an antique camera, a spooky Victorian house, and a shirtless boy with icy blue eyes. What else could you need to know, right?!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Bethany. You can find Bethany online at www.bethanyneal.com or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @BethDazzled

And here's where you can meet Bethany in person:

Upcoming Signings

MY LAST KISS Launch Party!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Nicola’s Books
2513 Jackson Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Join Bethany in publication day festivities! There will be cake, swag giveaways, and the signing of many books.

Michigan Author Event

Saturday, June 14, 2014
Barnes & Noble
3311 Tittabawassee Rd.
Saginaw, MI 48604
Visit Bethany and fellow YAer Aimee Carter in the Teen section during this store wide event featuring Michigan authors from varying genres.

Up North 2-Day Event: Signing/Writing Workshop

Friday, June 20, 2014
McLean & Eakin Bookstore
307 E. Lake St.
Petoskey, MI 49770

Saturday, June 21, 2014
Time 10am-12pm
McLean & Eakin Bookstore
307 E. Lake St.
Petoskey, MI 49770
Call McLean & Eakin for more information (231) 347-1180.

Benthany has generously donated an ARC of MY LAST KISS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 21st. I’ll announce the winner on June 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US and Canada residents.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I have an ASK THE EXPERT interview with a high school student and will be offering a number of MG and YA books for a giveaway to get you started on your summer reading.

Next Wednesday I have a guest post by Pam Torres and a giveaway of her MG book IT’S NOT JUST A DOG.

The following Monday I have an interview with Lindsay Cummings and a giveaway of THE MURDER COMPLEX, her YA futurist thriller that I really enjoyed.

Wednesday that week I’m interviewing debut author and follower Jessica Lawson and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction book THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER. This is a fun read and I loved Becky, the adventurous middle grader who has a great voice you can’t help loving.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


mshatch said...

I love ghost stories and this sounds like a good one. Congrats to Bethany :)

Creepy Query Girl said...

Ooh, I really like the mystery of this premise! Thanks for introducing us to Bethany and THE LAST KISS! Great interview Natalie, as always!

Anonymous said...

I would love to read this book. I've had my eye on it for awhile and love the description. That is a cool how she came up with the idea. sharif@sharifwrites.com

L. Diane Wolfe said...

She was smart to plan her own tour. There are a lot of great YA bloggers out there - I still have a long list from my book series.

The main character in the final book of my series was also unlikeable, and it is a challenge to make them likeable.

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats to Bethany! I recognize her from her photo - I met her very briefly years ago standing in line at a book signing at Nicola's - it think it was a panel of YA authors. And now she'll be having her own launch party there - how fun!

Barbara Watson said...

All best, Bethany! Writing is certainly something that requires us to keep at it.

Heather said...

Best of luck to your daughter on taking the ACT! And OMG, I have GOT to get that book. It sounds amazing!

Christine Rains said...

Fabulous interview. It's tricky to write mysteries, but that's great advice. Good luck, Bethany!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You can write my next query letter, Bethany!

Vivien said...

Super congrats!!! I am so excited to read My Last Kiss!!! Mysteries I'm sure, take an extra amount of work to get just right ;)
GFC: Vivien

kellis_amberlee at yahoo dot com

Carina Olsen said...

Amazing post both of you :D I really enjoyed My Last Kiss. <3 So this interview was all kinds of awesome :)

cleemckenzie said...

My Last Kiss sounds amazingly eerie! Another congrats to Tyrean for her new book.

Here's to summer and lots of swimming.

Cherie Reich said...

My Last Kiss sounds like an awesome book! Congrats, Bethany!

Congrats to Tyrean and Donna for their book releases too! :)

Jessie Humphries said...

Wow, that's a great story premise. I love it. Inspiration can hit anywhere and those moments are golden! Great interview.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Have a nice summer, Natalie. And good luck to your daughter.

I'd love to read this book. Sounds deliciously creepy. And I'm laughing at the idea of all you book goddesses prank-calling John Green! I tweeted: https://twitter.com/JoanneRFritz/status/476066058416050176

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yay for lots of swimming!

That's a good way for inspiration to come. I'll bet she'll never hear that song again without it being so closely linked to this project. I think that's lovely.

And thanks for the shout out!

Jemi Fraser said...

Such an intriguing premise! Sounds like something my students and I would enjoy!! :)

S.P. Bowers said...

Woah. you are crazy insane for loving query letters. Want to write mine?

I love that you got the idea from a song. One of my best ideas came from a poem.

Jessica Lawson said...

Loved hearing about Bethany's journey and getting great tips on creating likeable/sympathetic characters. The book sounds intriguing, as does the one she's working on now~ stories set in Victorian houses make me happy. Thanks for the interview, Natalie!

Karen Lange said...

Congrats to Bethany on her debut. It's an exciting time! Thanks so much for the introduction to her and her work.

Hooray for summer break! Enjoy your time together. :)

Stephanie Garber said...

Congrats, Bethany! I hadn't heard of MY LAST KISS before this week, but it totally sounds like my kind of book. Can't wait to read it!

Rosi said...

Ghost story/mystery! Yay! I want to read that. Thanks for a great interview and a chance to win.

Leigh Covington said...

WOW! That book sounds A-MAZ-ING! Definitely going on my TBR list! So glad you shared. Brilliant idea for a book. Very intriguing!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a truly wonderful read! Wish I lived in Michigan! :) I'll certainly give it a read.

Britt said...

I cannot wait to read this book. I love stories involving the dead for some reason. Thanks for the chance to win it.

Unknown said...

I love finding out how people got the idea for their books :-) Writing on a napkin while driving probably isn't the best idea (!) but it makes for a good story afterwards ;-)

Brenda said...

Love that when inspiration hit, she wrote it on a napkin, but while driving yikes. We have a week of school left too, can't wait for Summer! Hope you have a great one and good luck with the ACT to your daughter.

nutschell said...

Congrats to Bethany! And how cool that she got bitten by the writing bug while she had her photography business. Her book sounds like something I would enjoy reading!


Danielle H. said...

I can't wait to read your book! And I shared on Facebook to let my friends know. Thanks for the giveaway and interview. Wish I could be in Ann Arbor tonight.

Vanessa Morgan said...

My Last Kiss sounds awesome. And I love the cover.

Stina said...

Congrats to Bethany! The story sounds great. Kind of reminds me of Before I Fall (in many ways).

David P. King said...

What a haunting concept! Glad to meet you, Bethany. I have a soft spot for unlikeable MCs too. And unreliable narrators. :)

Crystal Collier said...

Goodness, I wish Bethany could share some of that Query Love. =) We should make her cupid and give her arrows.

Robin said...

Oh, I've been reading more and more suspense lately. Add suspense and a ghost story and I'm sold. Thanks for sharing your road to publication and what your editor told you about the story ultimately being yours to tell. Thanks for another great interview, Natalie!

Anonymous said...

So much enjoyed this interview. Bethany will do well. She has a great attitude and it sounds like her book will be a winner.

Jocelyn Rish said...

Congrats to Bethany! My Last Kiss sounds very interesting. And she needs to hurry up with the next one because combining an antique camera and a shirtless boy with icy blues has to lead to awesomeness!

DMS said...

Best of luck to Bethany! This sounds like a great story. :) I so enjoyed this interview and learning more about this interesting author. Thanks for sharing!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Excellent interview! As the author of a new YA, THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, I particularly value all the helpful info offered on this site.

Julie Musil said...

Yay for Bethany! Her book sounds really cool. Sort of like Before I Die, but with a mysterious twist.

Emma A. said...

This book sounds really interesting!

Anonymous said...

I would love to read this ARC! mmcarpenter @ ymail.com