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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Author Interview: Joanne Rossmassler Fritz and Ruptured Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have Joanne Rossmassler Fritz back to share about her new MG novel in verse Ruptured. Joanne’s debut MG book was Everywhere Blue, a beautiful novel in verse dealing with a mystery about how Maddie’s older brother disappeared. I interviewed Joanne when her book was released, and here’s the link to her interview. I’m especially excited to read Ruptured because this topic hits home. My daughter and I had to navigate my late husband’s near-death experiences more than once, and I wish I had this book to share with my daughter back then.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Is it wrong to grieve for someone who is still alive?

Claire's mom and dad don't talk to each other much anymore. And they definitely don't laugh or dance the way they used to. Their tense, stilted stand offs leave thirteen-year-old Claire, an only child, caught in the middle. So when the family takes their annual summer vacation, Claire sticks her nose in a book and hopes for the best. Maybe the sunshine and ocean breeze will fix what's gone wrong.

But while the family is away, Claire's mother has a ruptured brain aneurysm--right after she reveals a huge secret to Claire. Though she survives the rupture, it seems like she is an entirely different person. Claire has no idea if her mom meant what she said, or if she even remembers saying it. With the weight of her mom's confession on her shoulders, Claire must navigate fear, grief, and prospects for recovery.

Will her mom ever be the same? Will her parents stay together? And if the answer to either question is yes, how will Claire learn to live with what she knows? This beautifully written novel speaks to kids' fears and credits their strength, and stems from the author's incredible experience surviving two ruptured aneurysms.

Hi Joanne! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us how you became a writer and what it was like to be a debut author.

Hi Natalie! Thank you so much for having me back. Like many writers, I spent years reading widely, and realized while I was still in school that I wanted to write books like the ones I loved. But it took me a very long time to get there! I spent many years trying to write picture books, and essays and short stories, before finally turning to novels after my first brain aneurysm rupture. And it took me more than ten years of writing novels to get an agent and then an offer from a traditional publisher.

I loved being a debut author. A lot of it was confusing, I’ll admit, and publishing can be a brutal business, but most of it was wonderful! What surprised me the most was how close I became to some of my fellow 21ders, my debut author group.

2. That’s great that you enjoyed your debut year. Where did you get the idea for Ruptured?

I’m a survivor of two ruptured brain aneurysms, twelve years apart. Yes, I’m very lucky! But most people don’t realize only about half of those ruptures lead to death. The other half survive! We may have some deficits, but they’re mostly inside, where you can’t see them. Ever since my first rupture in 2005, I looked for a kids’ book where the mother lives after a brain aneurysm rupture, instead of dying, as so many of them do in fiction. Eventually, I realized I needed to write it myself.

About Your Writing Process

3. How long did it take you to write and revise Ruptured before submitting it to your editor? What advice do you have for other writers who have to learn to write a manuscript on a publishing deadline?

Ruptured, as my second book, was different from the first, which took four and a half years to write before I ever got the agent. My wonderful editor, Sally Morgridge at Holiday House, offered me a contract this time based on a proposal and the first very rough 5000 words of a verse novel which I had started in April 2021. It was so rough I’m embarrassed that I ever showed it to her. But Sally saw something there, a spark of an idea, that she thought could become a novel. I don’t recommend submitting a rough, unfinished novel to anyone, but luckily, she gave me some pointers and four months to finish the rough draft. I finished it in October 2021. Then we spent all of 2022 revising. By the fourth draft (the one you’ll read), we had a finished novel that is very different from that first terrible rough draft!

4. It’s great to hear that your editor worked with you for so long on your edits. Ruptured is in part drawn on your own experiences surviving two aneurysms. How did you make this Claire’s story and not yours?

Excellent question, Natalie! It was hard. There were times I started to stray into an autobiographical tone, and Sally would nudge me back. But by inventing the Sloan family in the first place, and writing from Claire’s POV, it gave me the distance I needed to write the story as a story, not a memoir. In real life, I don’t have a daughter. I have two grown sons. And my own family is very different from Claire’s family.

5. I love the first line of the blurb: “Is it wrong to grieve for someone who is still alive?” How did you come up with it? What’s your advice on creating captivating sentences like this one in your blurb?

I wish I could give you advice for that, but that tagline was the very first sentence I wrote. Originally that was how the story started, followed by a few lines like “This is a story/about a girl/ and a mother/and a father.” Those lines were quickly axed, but I liked the first line so much I asked Sally if we could use it as a tagline. I think that line encapsulated all the pent-up feelings I had held inside about my second rupture and how I learned from my family that I’d been out of my mind for six months. I have no memory of Sept 29, 2017 to early April 2018. If I was to try to give advice to writers about coming up with captivating sentences, I’d say go with your gut and your emotions and let it spill out into words.

Your Road to Publication

6. You had a literary agent who left agenting, and now you are unrepresented. How has it been entering into a publishing contract and navigating all the business aspects of your contract? What advice do you have for other writers wanting to submit to publishers directly?

It was quite different! Luckily, Holiday House is friendly to unagented authors. And in my case, Sally offered me almost exactly the same contract that I’d had with Everywhere Blue. Very little changed. It also happened just three weeks after the publication of that first novel! I didn’t have much time to worry about it, to be honest. I was floored that they would make an offer like that, and of course thrilled. As for advice for other writers, do your research into the publishers that accept unagented submissions. There are quite a few. Bitsy Kemper has a list. But please be respectful: these publishers get a lot of slush pile stuff. Try not to overwhelm them. And don’t nudge them to ask if they’ve read it yet! Be patient.

7. That’s great advice and thanks for the link to Bitsy’s list. Share some tips you’ve learned from getting published the first time that you used in working with your editor on this book.

I knew from working on Everywhere Blue that Sally is very good at what she does, and I should probably just listen to her! However, I did occasionally disagree with her during revisions this time. For instance, I insisted on one minor thing about describing the rupture itself. When Mom grabs her head and moans about the pain and the pressure, Sally wanted to delete the lines about pressure. I had to insist that the pressure inside her head was just as important as the pain. Any brain aneurysm rupture survivor will tell you that!

Promoting Your Book

8. What would you have done differently in terms of developing a social media platform and marketing your debut book now that you’ve gone through the experience of being a debut author? What advice on this do you have for authors who will debut in the next year?

I already had one social media platform and added Instagram before my debut. I believe I did all that was possible, considering my health and my family obligations. A good publisher does a lot of the marketing and publicity for MG books, even if it’s things we don’t see because they’re aimed mostly at schools and libraries. So I don’t know what I would have done differently, other than try to relax and enjoy it more! And that would be my main advice to authors: you only get one debut. Try to savor it. Another small piece of advice: Expect the unexpected! Realize that something will inevitably go wrong, whether it’s a terrible typo in your book, or an error on the copyright page, or people getting your title wrong. Try to accept the things you can’t change and move on.

9.  I really like your tip to relax and enjoy it. How are your marketing plans for Ruptured different from for Everywhere Blue? Why did you make these changes?

I’m not doing as many interviews/guest posts as I did for Everywhere Blue. This is more because of my family situation (my husband has cancer, so I need to be here for him, and not be spending all my time on marketing my own book). I’m also not sure all those interviews I did for the first book led to many sales, anyway!

10. I’m sorry to hear about your husband, but I’m glad you’re keeping your focus on him. What are you working on now?

I really can’t talk about it because it’s not very far along. I have a character and a setting but no real story problem yet! It’s living in my head at the moment.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Joanne.

Thanks for having me, Natalie!

You can find Joanne at www.joannerossmasslerfritz.com 

@JoanneRFritz on X/Twitter

@joannerossfritz on Instagram

Giveaway Details

Joanne’s publisher is generously offering a hardback of Ruptured for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 31st. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Joanne on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Monday, January 1st I’m participating in the New Year New You Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, January 3rd I have an interview with debut author Mary Averling and a giveaway of her MG fantasy The Curse of Eelgrass Bog and my IWSG post

Monday, January 8th I have an agent spotlight interview with Leah Moss and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, January 16th I’m participating in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop

Monday, January 22nd I have an interview with debut author Anthony Nerada and a giveaway of his YA contemporary Skater Boy

Monday, January 29th I have a guest post by author Shutta Crum

Wednesday, January 31st I I have an agent spotlight interview with Laura Gruska and a query critique giveaway

Happy Holidays! I hope to see you on Monday, January 1!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Congratulations to Joanne! Great concept for an MG book.

Brenda said...

A huge congratulations to Joanne! Lovely interview and enjoyed reading about your journey with getting your books published.

suetwiggsbooks said...

i"m writing a novel-in-verse and I look forward to reading both of yours. I will then pass it onto a school library for children to read.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Both of Joanne's books sound like fantastic stories. THanks for sharing with us.

Michael Law said...

Thanks for the giveaway opportunity. Shared in Facebook under Mike Law and Twitter under @MikeLaw97748568.

Carol Baldwin said...

This book sounds fantastic and I truly appreciated how you said you had to move away from your own experience to make it Claire's. Good questions, Natalie! I'll share on FB and twitter. Thank you both.

traveler said...

A captivating and memorable story that would be unforgettable and a real treasure. Than you for the fascinating interview. What a wonderful feature. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Liz A. said...

Interesting interview. Definitely a different topic for a book.

Kimberly Yavorski said...

This sounds like a great book!

Greg Pattridge said...

I'm so glad Joanne is continuing to write great stories inspired by her own experiences. Ruptured is now high on my future read list. Thanks for the excellent interview.

Melissa Miles said...

Great interview! This book sounds amazing, and Joanne seems like such a lovely and genuine person. Congratulations on the second book!

miriam said...

This book sounds unique and I would love to have a copy!

E T Charles said...

Thank you so much for sharing this Joanne and Natalie.

Kate Larkindale said...

What an interesting topic for a book!

Leela said...

Thanks for thee giveaway.

Sandra Cox said...

Fascinating interview. Thanks for sharing.
Wishing Joanne many sales in her Christmas stocking.
Happy Holidays, Natalie.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Thank you so much for doing this, Natalie! I enjoyed your thoughtful questions. And thanks to all for commenting/entering.

Rachel Stones said...

Ruptured sounds fascinating. Can't wait to read it!

Sue said...

Wow! Sounds like a great story.

jan godown annino said...

THis is so informative, Natalie & Joanne, even though I know much about the creation of the book already as a longtime novel-in-verse colleague, from Highlights' workshop days. I'm a big van of both EVERYWHERE BLUE * RUPTURED novels.
It will be wonderful to read The Next.

[not commenting for a give-away copy :)

Jan/Bookseedstudio https://www.bookseedstudio.wordpresscom

Computer Tutor said...

Kudos to you for writing the book no one else did. I'm not into MG, but you have me officially enticed!

Fundy Blue said...

What an interesting interview, Natalie and Joanne! Ruptured sounds awesome and I'd like to be in the drawing. That first sentence: Is it wrong to grieve for someone who is still alive? grabs at your heart. No, it's not wrong to grieve someone who is alive. Life can do such cruel things to a person. I'm glad that you survived two ruptures, Joanne. Happy new year to both of you!

LV said...

Happy New Year.

LV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Seckman said...

My mother was often sick when I was a child, so this speaks to me. I still have a lot of guilt over how selfish young me could be toward my mom. I'm glad there is a book that kids can read to help them understand.