2021 Debut Author Interview: Kalena Miller!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!

At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Kalena Miller and her novel THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX, and we have been interested in it ever since! We even got the chance to read an ARC, and it was an absolute gem. We are so excited to have Kalena on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 




Kalena Miller grew up in College Station, TX with her mom, dad, and the most photographed hamster in history. After high school, she moved a thousand miles north to attend Carleton College, where she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Religious Studies. After a brief stint working as a paraeducator in Seattle, Kalena decided she missed school too much, so she spent the next two years pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University. Kalena currently lives in Hopkins, Minnesota with her husband, Kenny, and Toy Australian Shepherd, Toshley. She writes middle grade and young adult fiction and co-authors narrative nonfiction with her mom, Kathy Miller (check out her website here). She loves books that make her laugh and make her cry, preferably at the same time, and she firmly believes all quality novels should feature a cat.

Keep up with Kalena: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads


The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Kalena: Thank you so much! It honestly feels unreal! I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to share my writing with readers across the country, and it’s still mind boggling when I imagine total strangers reading my words. 

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Kalena: I absolutely adore first drafts, so staring at a blank piece of paper is the best part of the process for me. I love the feeling of endless possibilities and getting to experiment without deadlines or other issues influencing the process. For me, revising tends to be more difficult. Once I have a complete draft, my brain balks at the idea of messing it up because I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of putting it back together. This is when my tendency to procrastinate kicks in. Whenever it’s time to revise, you can probably find me cleaning my house instead.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX?

Kalena: I was in a writing workshop, and one of my mentors told me I was skilled at writing sex scenes. I was so excited that I really ran with that compliment and started writing a book comprised entirely of sex scenes (as a joke). Well, it turns out that I enjoyed the characters and stories I was creating, so I backtracked to work on necessities like plot and momentum. The rest is history!

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Kalena: Julia was the first POV I started writing, and she remains my favorite probably. I love her humor, her zany non sequiturs, and the earnestness with which she approaches the sex pact. I also think her voice is most similar to mine, so I could really channel my own energy in her sections. The most difficult character to write was Alex. Those chapters have a slightly more serious tone due to the seriousness of his storyline, which didn’t come quite as naturally to me. This was also the furthest I’ve written outside of my own cultural experiences and my first time writing a male protagonist, so both of those things challenged me as a writer as well. 

The Book Bratz: What surprised you the most about the publishing process?

Kalena: How long everything takes!! Actually, the turnaround from this project being acquired to publication day was much faster than most people’s experiences, but it still felt like forever ago that I started writing this book. I think as writers, we get used to doing everything on our own schedules, but once there’s a whole company involved and a billion different voices and meetings, the publishing process slows down a lot. 

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX? 

Kalena: Honestly, I just hope readers have a good time. This is a fun, light-hearted book, and I really hope I’ve created a story that provides people an enjoyable escape from whatever is happening in their lives. For teens reading my book, I want them to be reassured that it’s perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed and directionless. There’s all this pressure on high school seniors to plan the next forty years of their life, but that’s just not realistic. Climb on top of a roof. Have (safe) sex with your partner. Buy a gazillion pop-tarts. It’s okay to take a breath and enjoy where you are now. 

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Kalena: I don’t plan on returning to this world—at least there’s nothing in the works, but I won’t say never. However, I’m so excited to have a middle grade book coming out in the spring of 2023 with Delacorte. The story is about a middle schooler living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who’s thrust into the spotlight during a theatrical production of The Sound of Music. There’s friendship drama, family angst, and so many musical theatre references.


Title: The Night When No One Had Sex
Author: Kalena Miller
Publisher: Aw Teen
Publication Date: October 12th, 2021

Summary: It's the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. (Yes, that kind of pact.) They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex's grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe's trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale--and how to tell her girlfriend. Madison's chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia's fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet. Alternating between each character's perspective and their ridiculous group chat, The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.


Thank you so much to Kalena for stopping by and answering our questions! We absolutely adored reading THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX (you can read our review here), and it's out in the world now for you to enjoy! Plus, that's not all -- until 10/24, we're giving away our ARC on our Twitter!

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet



The College Diaries: Starting MFA Thesis Classes!

Hi everyone! I just have a quick College Diaries update for you all today -- I officially started my thesis courses for my MFA program! For anyone who isn't familiar with the process, I basically get to take a string of three classes that focuses entirely on me writing, revising, and getting my novel ready for publication. It's the big pinnacle of the whole program, and I'm so unbelievably excited about it!

Anyone who knows me knows that it's always been my dream to be a published author, and while an MFA degree definitely doesn't guarantee those chances, it still is such an incredible thing to do, and I'm so glad that I decided to take the leap and join the program. For the first time in a long time, I get to put my writing and my dreams of being an author first, instead of letting them sit on the backburner in favor of everything else I have going on. Not only has this program really helped me improve my writing, but now it's time for me to put the pedal to the metal and really focus on #BeachTownWIP! It also helps that I have an amazing advisor that I am so excited about, and I feel like she's really the best fit for me and my work.

I just -- ugh. I'm so excited. This isn't a very eloquent update by any stretch, but I really just wanted to pop in and let you guys know that it's finally happening...I'm almost done with my MFA program, and I'll have a finished and polished novel to show for it!! Eeeeeeep.

If you're interested in keeping up with my MFA journey, you can also subscribe to my author newsletter!





ARC Review: The Night When No One Had Sex by Kalena Miller

Title: The Night When No One Had Sex
Author: Kalena Miller
Publisher: Aw Teen
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 320 Pages
Publication Date: October 12th, 2021
Summary: It's the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. (Yes, that kind of pact.) They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex's grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe's trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale--and how to tell her girlfriend. Madison's chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia's fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet. Alternating between each character's perspective and their ridiculous group chat, The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.

I received an ARC of THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX in exchange for an honest review, and I'm really glad you did, because you guys...this book is hysterical. Seriously. I loved this book so much and am already hand-pushing it on all of my friends because I want them to all read it and laugh along with me. If the title itself wasn't enough to grab your attention, then trust me, the 

As the summary explains, the story follows a group of high school friends who are all seniors who made a sex pact for their prom night. They secured a cabin in the woods without adult supervision, all of their romantic partners, and it seems like it's going to be a great night...until everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong. It's a hilarious story of runaway cats, roleplay gone wrong, and lots of twists and turns. Trust me, this is not the type of story that you want to miss!

I devoured this entire book in less than 48 hours and even read 200+ pages in a single day because I was so invested in the antics of all of the characters that I just couldn't put it down. I was laughing so hard that my stomach hurt and I was also gasping at every single plot twist and shocking moment. I've been in a bad reading slump for awhile since I've been so stressed about other facets of my life, so it felt like this book found me at the perfect time. I was able to sit down and dive into a hysterical story that I found myself really getting sucked into. I definitely had "one more chapter" syndrome with this one, that's for sure! You get to watch everyone's nights unravel into pure chaos in so many different ways, and although there are a lot of different things going on with each individual couple, the title of the book lets you know that something interesting will be happening with all of them, that's for sure! And some of them are definitely things that you wouldn't expect.

Something else that was really cool about this book was the variety of different perspectives. You get to see the story from the perspectives of everyone in the friend group from time to time, broken up by transcripts of their absolutely hysterical group chat with its ever-changing names. Their dynamic with each other really reminded me a lot of my own friend group at home and the conversations we have, so that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I think above all, this is a story of friendship and all of the different forms its support takes, even among all of the chaos. Seeing them all together and supporting each other (and helping each other out of jams) really made me smile -- I just love books with such tight friendships, and that was really evident here.

My favorite characters of them all were definitely Kevin and Julia. Having such a big cast of characters means that there were so many different options to choose from and picking favorites was hard, but I loved whenever I got to see scenes between the two of them. Even as everything about their night was starting to go wrong and Julia's carefully laid plans (hehe) fell apart, it was clear how much love the two of them had for each other. And I also loved the way Julia would just casually blurt anything and everything about her and Kevin to her friends. She definitely kept the friend group on their toes, that's for sure -- even if she wasn't the only one!

Overall, I absolutely loved THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX. If you're looking for a book that makes you laugh so hard it hurts, fall in love, and watch the hijinks of a carefully planned prom night unfold in disastrous real-time, then trust me, this is absolutely the book for you. I'm absolutely a fan of Kalena Miller's, and I'm really looking forward to reading more of her work in the future, because reading this book was honestly such a delight!









Waiting on Wednesday: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read!

Title: The Love Hypothesis 
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Paperback, 384 Pages
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: September 14th 2021

Summary: As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees. That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding...six-pack abs. Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

 

I know that this book came out a few weeks ago, but I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet with all of the ARCs I had to get through and I had finals for my MFA program, but now that I finally have a little bit of a break, I'm really looking forward to diving into this one! I even had to do a writeup on the marketing of this book for one of my MFA papers, so I got to learn more about it and I'm extra excited to read it now.

Has anyone here read THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS yet? What did you think of it?

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so I can stop back! 


Spotlight & Giveaway: Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman!

Hi everyone! Today on the blog, we're shining a spotlight on FRANKIE & BUG by Gayle Forman, a fantastic author who we've always loved, and is publishing a new Middle Grade story! While we don't typically cover Middle Grade here on the blog, Gayle Forman always has a special place in our heart, so we're definitely excited to make the exception. (And who knows? Maybe this will open up the door to us covering more MG titles in the future!) So without further ado, let's get into it!


ABOUT THE BOOK


Title: Frankie & Bug
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Aladdin
Hardcover, 288 Pages
Publication Date: October 11th, 2021 

 Summary: FRANKIE & BUG stars ten- (almost eleven!) year-old Bug, a feisty girl who just wants to play at the beach all summer, who is feeling left out as her older brother stretches his wings toward independence. And there is 11-year-old Frankie, sent from Ohio to stay with his gay uncle in Venice Beach for the summer: a trans boy who just wants the opportunity to be who he is. Wary of each other at first, Frankie and Bug bond over their mutual desire to catch the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer stalking Southern California in 1987. When the violence comes closer to home, what Frankie and Bug learn about themselves is far more important — family can be whatever you make it, love is stronger than blood, and it’s up to all of us to hurry toward justice. Additionally, FRANKIE & BUG conveys an important, and incredibly timely message about acceptance, friendship and showing up: one that we can all use right now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Award-winning author and journalist Gayle Forman has written several bestselling novels for young adults, including the Just One Series, I Was Here, Where She Went and the #1 New York Times bestseller If I Stay, which has been translated into more than 40 languages and in 2014 was adapted into a major motion picture. Gayle published Leave Me, her first novel starring adults in 2016 and her latest novel, I Have Lost My Way, comes out in March of 2018. Gayle lives with her husband and daughters in Brooklyn.
Keep up with Gayle: Goodreads / Website / Twitter / Instagram

GIVAWAY

If FRANKIE & BUG sounds like the type of book you or a young reader would be interested in reading, you're in luck: we're currently giving away a finished copy on our Twitter account right now, until 10/11! All you have to do is click here, follow us, and Retweet the Tweet. The giveaway is unfortunately U.S. only, but we wish you all the best of luck!

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We'd like to thank Simon & Schuster for inviting us to share this spotlight today, and for providing the giveaway copy for us -- if you're interested in FRANKIE & BUG, don't forget to add it to your TBR!