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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Demetra Brodsky here to share about her YA psychological thriller DIVE SMACK. The blurb already has me intrigued. Demetra’s book released in June 2018 so I’m excited to pick her brain about what worked and what didn’t when her book released.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.

Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A's and solid friends, he's only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.

But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.

Hi Demetra! Thanks so much for joining us!

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to share my writing journey with Literary Rambles readers.

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

I have a B.F.A. from The Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. I’m a three-time award winning Designer/Art Director. But the way I became a writer was a bit circumstantial. I lost my job as an Artist Manager in 2009 during the recession, like so many other people who were negatively affected, and decided to turn what some might see as a negative setback into an opportunity to follow a lifelong dream. I started freelancing designing and visiting the library with my youngest daughter who was devouring the Percy Jackson novels at the time. Being a first generation Greek American, the novels piqued my interest and led me to think about how much I’ve always wanted to write a book, even though I was pushed by family as a teenager to do something they deemed more practical. I took the chance I had, for better or worse, to freelance and dive (pun acknowledge, not intended) into writing. I knew virtually nothing about writing a book, but I set off for my local library to read as many books on the craft of writing as I could carry. That led to my first manuscript, which was, of course, a Greek Mythology. The rest is a long string of workshops, conferences, queries, and rejections until I was lucky enough to find representation that led to the publication of my debut novel.

2. Great how you transformed a hard situation into a positive change in your life. Where did you get the idea for DIVE SMACK?

I’ve always been drawn to stories about dark family secrets, but one of the seminal ideas for Dive Smack came from my friendship with 1992 Olympic Springboard Diver, Karen LaFace. The other comes from my love of hearing about people’s personal histories, as well as hearing about my own family’s history. My parents are Greek immigrants, and I’ve heard so many stories, both heartwarming and horrific about their lives, and the lives of my grandparents, that I began toying with the idea of writing a book about a boy who goes looking into his mother’s past. While I was deciding on a sport to give him, the idea for springboard diving presented itself as a great metaphor for his life spinning out of control. There’s a little more to it than that, but diving deeper into the novel’s inspiration would spoil all the twists.

3. What a great way to come up with an idea for a story.Your story sounds like a real page turner from reviews I read. How did you plot this out and make it a gripping story you don’t want to put down?

Thank you for the compliment. I did lay down a lot of breadcrumbs throughout the story and the way
I did that was by editing while I wrote the drafts, if I’m being honest. I know there’s a lot of advice out there that advises drafting quickly, but that’s not a technique that works for me. If I put something on page eighty-seven that I know I can reference with a hint on, let’s say, page seven, I go back and put that breadcrumb in, or at least a note to self that reminds me to do so, before going forward. The DIVE SMACK that eventually got printed is version thirteen of the story. I guess we can say some of those breadcrumbs got gobbled up in the revising. But if you read Dive Smack more than once, after getting through the twists and reveals, you should be able to spot the clues I left for the reader.

4. I write a lot like you. This is a psychological thriller with Theo trying to figure out what happened the night his mom died. What are some things you learned from writing this story about writing in this genre? 

DIVE SMACK taught me how much I prefer writing about monsters that exist in our everyday lives over mythical ones. Truth be told, Scooby Doo probably taught me that as I child, and I’ve held onto my love of seeing real monsters being unmasked by clever teens. I also learned to hold back gratification in order to make a reader suffer, by dropping smaller clues that built on each other over the course of a story. And I learned that I had the ability to scare myself. I really wanted DIVE SMACK to keep readers teetering on the edge of a proverbial diving board while they read.

5. Share a bit about Theo, your main character. Was it challenging at all to write from a male POV? Why? 

I honestly never had a problem writing from a male POV. Theo came to me fully formed. I always knew I was going to write this from his perspective. For me, writing is a bit like method acting. I just wholly assumed the characterization. I have two daughters, and I’m the youngest of three girls. My mother is also one of three daughters, and my father is the only male child in his family with five sisters. I guess that makes me a bit of outlier when it comes to writing what you know, but perhaps having a lot of male friends in high school helped.

Theo Mackey is a high school springboard diver that outwardly appears to have it all. He has good grades, good friends, and the girl he’s interested in is finally beginning to take notice. But underneath this façade there’s a darkness. He believes he’s responsible for the fire that took his mother’s life. And his dad, having never recovered from her death, dies in an car accident a year later. This leave Theo living with his alcoholic grandfather, a former fire chief that has no idea Theo feels responsible for the fire. To keep his grades up, Theo starts popping Adderall, a prescription given to him by his Uncle Phil, a psychiatrist and head of research at the local psychiatric hospital. When Theo gets assigned a family history project at school, new memories about the night of fire come rushing to the surface, making Theo question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.

Here are some random facts about Theo Mackey and why I love him:
He would do anything for his friends.
He likes his best friend Chip’s house better than his own.
He’s afraid of failure.
His crush on Iris Fiorello is hardcore.
He does the right thing even when he doesn’t want to.
He has two moles on his face.
He likes classic rock.
His car is named after Bumblebee the Transformer.
His teammates call him The Big Mack because he’s tall for a diver.

6. Your agents are Suzie Townsend and Devin Ross. How did they become your agents and what was your road to publication like? I know that you’ve described it as bumpy.

Suzie and Devin are amazing, first off, but they weren’t my first agents. I was represented by someone else for four years, and that’s the agent that sold Dive Smack. As you get further along in this business you start to assess what kind of partnership you want for your career. I adored my first agent, but I was looking for an agent, or agents in my case, that were a bit more proactive and could give me strong direction in terms of marketing, publicity, and my long-term career goals. It was a hard decision to leave my first agent and query again, considering it took me six years to find the first one, but in the end I know I made the right decision. I couldn’t be happier about my team, and I’m grateful every single day that they brought me into the New Leaf Literary family.

In terms of my journey being bumpy, I think new authors often fantasize that once they get the first book deal all the subsequent books will fall easily into place. That’s the dream, but it wasn’t the case for me. I offered my next book to my editor, and she didn’t love it enough to want to take on the project. That was quite a blow, because that book is hands down my favorite book I’ve written. When I was done licking my wounds, I went back to her with 13 new pitches and she chose the one that she liked the most, and that’s the book I’m currently working on.

7. I like your idea of pitches to an editor before writing a whole book. Your book released about seven months ago. What has surprised you about the time leading up to your book release and the months afterward? 

One of the things that surprised me the most around the entire publishing process was how slowly everything moves along, at least initially. Timelines quickly turns into a frenetic race to get everything done in the month or two leading to publication. Those two months are when the publisher and the author are trying to build awareness and momentum for the book and you’re answering a lot of interview questions and going to events and conferences, all while planning your launch party. In the months after, it’s important to keep that momentum going, which is no small feat. I had it in my head that people must be getting sick of hearing about my book, but I also didn’t want it to fall out of sight. I think there’s a delicate and precarious balance between keeping awareness going and cramming your book down the everyone’s social media feeds.

8. What did you do to promote your book both leading up to its release and once it did release? What do you think worked and what didn’t? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Bloggers, like yourself, have been a godsend for me. I reached out to some bloggers a few months before release, choosing a handful that posted about loving thrillers, and so many of them got back to me with great enthusiasm. Not only that, they helped me make contact with other bloggers in their circle, and the love for DIVE SMACK spread outward from those connections. They raised so much awareness for my book, helped me with giveaways and cross-promotion, invited me to be a guest on their podcasts, and hosted blog tours. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them. They were a lifeline filled with hope and possibility that made the journey so enjoyable. Another thing I did was get on the phone with an outside publicist, suggested to me by favorite blogger. I spoke to that publicist for an hour, which worked for my budget, and she made some valuable suggestions about my social media marketing efforts. I joined International Thriller Writers, who has an incredible debut author program. I reached out to different festivals and said yes to any and all panels invitations. I also joined forces with other debut thrillers authors so we could put together monthly group giveaways. That was fun and a great way to gain more followers and readers.

One of my biggest and best supporters is Mysterious Galaxy, my local bookstore here in San Diego. The owners and booksellers were instrumental in spreading the word about my book. They even got it into the local newspaper, and helped get me a spot on a panel at Comic Con International. I am so grateful to have this incredible, and actively bookish group of people so close to home. They once introduced me before a panel by saying I felt like family. The feeling is mutual.

There wasn’t anything I found that didn’t work. All awareness for a book is good awareness. If I had to do anything differently, I might have started making new contacts at least six months or more before publication to accommodate the schedules of bloggers. 

9. All this is such great advice. Thanks for sharing everything that worked for you. Now that you have gone through a debut book release, what advice do you have for other writers who will become a debut author in the future?

Learn about book marketing and try to develop a plan for how you’re going to raise awareness for you book early on. Make schedules and stick to them. And above all else be gracious, giving, and kind to bloggers and booksellers. Many of them blog and evangelize the books they love for free and on their own time, out of a place of devotion to reading, and they are truly the most giving group of people I’ve ever met.

10. What are you working on now?

At the moment, my projects are slightly under wraps, but I can say I have a YA thriller about three sisters who uncover some secrets close to home, and maybe the end of the world as we know it. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to . . . Well, I’m a thriller writer, you know how the rest of that saying goes. But please, stay tuned for things to news to come. I’m looking forward to making some announcements soon.

Thanks so much for sharing, Demetra. You can find Demetra at:

Instagram: @demebrodsky
Twitter: @demetrabrodsky.
Tumblr: http://demetrabrodsky.tumblr.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32173182-dive-smack
Website: http://www.demetrabrodsky.com

Demetra has generously offered a signed hardback of DIVE SMACK 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 January 19th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

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 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Here's what's coming up

Monday, January 14th I have an interview with Amy Tipton, a former agent who has an editorial service with a query critique or five-page critique giveaway--winner's choice

Monday, January 21st I'm off

Monday, January 28th I have an interview with debut author Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo and a giveaway of her MG contemporary RUBY IN THE SKY

Wednesday, February 6th I have a guest post by debut author Addie Thorley with her agent Katelyn Detweiler with a giveaway of Addie's YA historical fantasy AN AFFAIR OF POISONS and a query critique giveaway by Katelyn

Monday, February 11th I have an interview with debut author Astrid Scholte and a giveaway of her YA fantasy FOUR DEAD QUEENS

Wednesday, February 13th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Amy Stapp

Hope to see you on Monday!


  1. A great post Natalie, thanks for the gen on Demetra I hope her book is a success also her career.


  2. Leaving breadcrumbs and clues isn't something I've really done with my books. That they end up with a theme at all is amazing.
    Glad it worked out with your new agents, Demetra.

    1. Thank you so much, Alex. I leave breadcrumbs as I write, but sometimes I do it in the revising by looking for little things I can insert along that way that will tease the reader before the end. Give it try. :)

  3. Love that you learned writing from checking out books from the library! (Libraries are my favorite places.) And I think Scooby is a great influence, too!

  4. Thank you so much for reading this interview. I'm glad we share a love for Scooby doo, Elizabeth. Alex, I'm actually in thick of trying to leave breadcrumbs in the first draft of my new WIP. They are currently all over my desk instead of on the page ;) --Thank you for the kind wishes, Yvonne.

  5. Congrats, Demetra! The book's description really captured my attention.

  6. Demetra's book sounds fantastic. I do love a good thriller!

  7. Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear that. Fire can be so devastating. It's one of my biggest fears.

  8. Greek mythology is fun to explore. The spring board sounds perfect for spinning out of control.

  9. You have a busy month ahead, Natalie. Good to meet you Demetra. I still love Scooby Doo :)

    1. Me too. I love that they always, "I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for these meddling kids!"

  10. Thank you all for reading this interview. So fun to have some writing sisters who also love the library, Scooby Doo, and Greek Mythology.

  11. I enjoyed the interview. The cover is very eye-catching and the story sounds fantastic! Good luck with your novel. Thanks for hosting this one.

  12. Congrats to Demetra. It sounds like she did a ton of promotion leading up to her book's release. I'm impressed.

  13. Congratulations! Love your writing adventures! Angelecolline at yahoo dot com

  14. I'm impressed with Demetra's plot, but also the fact that she respects bloggers and booksellers. Great review, as always, Natalie!

  15. Great interview!
    Dive Smack sounds amazing!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  16. Congrats to Demetra! Theo sounds like a loveable character.

  17. The book and Theo sound great! I liked the interview about Demetra's process and things like the breadcrumbs/hints she inserted into the story. JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

  18. Carolyn Chambers Clark is entering the contest but can't leave a comment. She tweeted too. CarolynChambersClark@gmail.com

  19. I don't read much YA but this sounds like a good one. Thanks for the insightful interview. I'll step away from the giveaway since I recently won.

    1. Thank you, Greg! I hope you check out Dive Smack.

  20. Oh yeah...this is one for me.
    sherryfundin69 at netscape dot net
    sherry @ fundinmental

  21. This book sounds fab!
    GFC: Megan S.
    Email: megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com
    Tweet: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1082694167162220544

  22. I love reading thrillers and Theo sounds amazing to get to know. Thanks for the interview and I can't wait to read this book. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/181843616387/demetra-brodsky-interview-and-dive-smack-giveaway

  23. Stories about personal angst and guilt...as a natural born guilt sufferer, this sounds like my kind of story.

  24. Congratulations, Demetra. And thanks for shoring your story with us. I'm looking forward to reading your book. Best wishes to you.

  25. I always get so much from your interviews. Thanks for this post. I will pass on the giveaway. I am so far behind on my reading!

  26. I have heard great things about this book!

    1. Thank you, Sethia! I hope you find some time to read it. :)

    2. I did and I really enjoyed it! Thank you!

  27. Intriguing premise. Heavy subject too. Congrats!

  28. This book does sound amazing. Congratulations! Oh, and that 1st draft thing all at once doesn't work for me either.

  29. Great interview! I really enjoyed reading about Demetra's journey and how she moved from one agent to another and talk to her publicist - gaining agency for her own writing and marketing. Congratulations, Demetra! And, thank you, Natalie!
    (my email is tyreantigger@gmail.com)

  30. So many congrats again to Demetra on her release of the gorgeous Dive Smack! I've been inspired by the story, every step of the way.
    As I have so little time for YA novels I will step aside for the giveaway, but wish everyone else the best of luck!

  31. It has to be hard to write a book in present time and keep up with events while trying to get published. Have you had to go back and tweak things to keep up with the times?

    1. I try to not include things, vernacular, etc., that will date the book. I'm having a harder time with my sophomore novel, at the moment, because it does have to do with current political issues, even though that's not the main driving point.

  32. Boy, another book I'd love to read! Congrats to Demetra :)

  33. It's always interesting to learn how writers end up as authors. It seems that a lot of us stumble into it!

  34. Really good post about Demetra's writing prep for this book!

  35. Wonderful to meet Demetra. It was interesting to learn how she came to be a writer. I loved the Percy Jackson books too and can totally understand how they could inspire someone to write. :) It sounds like her publishing company helped her to do a lot of promotion and events. That is awesome! Wishing her all the best.

  36. Thanks for the giveaway!

  37. It was interesting to learn Demetria’s motivation for writing the book. Love the catchy title! Thanks for all the great tips!


  38. Thank you both. As a greedy reader I love learning more about writers' journeys. You are all my heroes.

  39. The book sounds awesome! I cannot wait to read it! Thank you all!

  40. This book looks awesome! Can't wait to read it.