2022 Debut Author Interview: Carolyn Tara O'Neil!

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 2022 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 2021, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Carolyn Tara O'Neil and her novel DAUGHTERS OF A DEAD EMPIRE, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Carolyn on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Carolyn Tara O’Neil grew up in a tiny New York City apartment filled with thousands of books. Every Friday she went to the public library for even more reading material. She now lives in a slightly smaller NYC apartment with slightly fewer books, and still goes to the library every week. In between then and now, Carolyn has lived in France, Spain, and Japan, and has dedicated her career to the education and rights of young people. She loves to travel, study languages, and spend endless hours discussing TV, books, great hiking trails, and how we can work together to build a more equal society.
Keep up with Carolyn: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

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

Carolyn: Thank you so much! I grew up in a little apartment stuffed to the brim with thousands of books -- so it’s no joke when I say I’ve dreamt of publishing a novel my whole life. It is a joy to know that people will read my book, and that I’ll soon see it in bookstores and libraries. That said, the experience is a rollercoaster as high as the stratosphere! There’s so much doubt and anxiety in this journey. At the end of the day -- it’s almost trite to say it -- the only thing that matters is writing. The next story in one’s heart is more important than whatever came before, published or not. That never changes.

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

Carolyn: There’s nothing like losing yourself in a story, disappearing into the mind of a character. That feeling is a comfort to me. In a way, it’s home. I dedicate every Sunday to writing. For 5, 6, even 10 hours straight I will sit down and immerse myself in a story. I love the satisfaction of a long writing session. The hardest thing was working in a pandemic! I’m a big believer in writing routine, and coronavirus messed with my routine tremendously. 

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for DAUGHTERS OF A DEAD EMPIRE?

Carolyn: Although I chose to write about the legend of Anastasia, it was the stories of everyday people in Russia that excited me the most. I wanted to explore the suffering experienced under the Tsar’s rule, the hope and idealism around the revolution, and the severe disillusionment that followed. The extremes of income inequality that existed then – echoed in America today – also drew me to this time period. My own biracial family came from opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, and as a child I attended both public and private schools. I’ve seen the extremes of income inequality close-up my entire life, and I felt that the Russian Revolution provided a useful point of comparison for our lives today.

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

Carolyn: My book is dual-POV so I try not to play favorites! Excluding my protagonists, there is a certain young Czech soldier with an important role in the book. He is sweet and fearless and has a surprising family history, and, just MAYBE, becomes something of a love interest for one of the main characters. ;-)

The Book Bratz: Are there any other books or authors who give you inspiration for your own writing?

Carolyn: Omg, so many! Justina Ireland, Stacey Lee, Elizabeth Wein, Tonya Bolden, Ruta Sepetys, Sherri L. Smith, MT Anderson -- all magnificent historical fiction writers in the YA category who I just can’t get enough of, and who have taught me so much by example. And then there are other writers who write completely different genres -- like Kristin Cashore, or Katherine Paterson, or Brandy Colbert, or Shamim Sarif, or Gita Trelease -- who inspire me in different ways. 

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from DAUGHTERS OF A DEAD EMPIRE? 

Carolyn: I have so many hopes: that readers will enjoy it and love my characters. That it will make them think. That it will spark their curiosity to explore a part of history that we don’t study very much in this country, unless you choose to in college. That readers will consider what it means to have a fair and just government, and what kinds of sacrifices are necessary to create one. Also I’m hoping they'll be inspired to create fanfiction and fanart, because that was my world for so long!! :-D

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of DAUGHTERS OF A DEAD EMPIRE in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Carolyn: Writing is my secret garden! I find that the less I say to anyone while I’m in drafting phase, the more it flourishes. That said, Daughters of a Dead Empire is a standalone. Whatever comes next will share a lot of the same themes, but may surprise you!

Title: Daughters of a Dead Empire
Author: Carolyn Tara O'Neil
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2022

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Anna is running for her life. She barely escaped the massacre that killed her family, and now a relentless Red commander is after her to finish the job. If she can just reach the Tsarist army, she’ll be safe. But first she must convince a peasant girl to smuggle her across communist territory. And when the peasant turns out to be a communist herself, Anna must hide her true identity at all costs. Sixteen-year-old Evgenia is poor and pissed off about it. Her Red soldier brother badly needs a doctor. Evgenia will do anything to raise the money – even selling a wagon ride to a spoiled bourgeois girl. Only it’s the worst mistake Evgenia’s ever made. A rogue commander is following them, and he’s out to kill the wealthy girl and anyone who helps her. As the girls flee across the war-torn Russian countryside, they find that they have more in common than their prejudices led them to expect. To survive, Anna must trust a revolutionary who wants to destroy her world. And Evgenia must decide whether the life of her new friend is worth more than the change she so passionately believes in.

Thank you so much to Carolyn for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about DAUGHTERS OF A DEAD EMPIRE and can't wait for it to be out in the world on February 22nd

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Memories!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between! 

This Week's Theme: Bookish Memories! 

1. Reading in during math class. I would always end up in trouble but it was always 100% worth it! 

2. Attending BookExpo in 2018 and 2019! This will forever be my favorite bookish memories! 

3. Breaking my ankle at BookExpo in 2019. Most people wouldn't consider it a funny memory, but it is comical to me because it is such an Amber thing to do. (I even walked around on the broken ankle all day because I was in denial!) 

4. Creating The Book Bratz! Of course the birth of our. blog made the list! 

5. Going to my first ever book signing event in 2014/2015! 

6. Meeting all of my blogging friends in person! 

7. Meeting Taherah Mafi and Ransom Riggs at the Restore Me launch party! It was literally a dream come to true to meet my idols. 

8. Meeting Jennifer L. Armentrout at BookCon in 2014/15! She was so sweet and the first author that I have ever met in person!

9. Staying overnight in Manhattan for BookExpo 2019! (Sadly, it got cut short because I fell and broke my ankle, but it was fun while it lasted.) 

10. Being part of the book community! 

What are some of your favorite Bookish Memories!? Leave your link to your TTT below so we can stop back! 

Books We're Thankful For This Year

Happy Thanksgiving! To celebrate this holiday of giving thanks for those that we appreciate, we just wanted to take a moment to let you know that we are so, so thankful for all of you. You make us excited to gush about books every single day, and we truly wouldn't be where we are without you. So thank you, thank you, thank you for making our book blogging dreams come true!

Something else that we're thankful for is pretty much a given -- books! So to celebrate the holiday, we're rounding up some books that we're grateful for this year. Without further ado, let's jump into it:


So those are some books that we're thankful for this year! What are some of yours? Do you agree/disagree with some of our choices? Comment down below and let us know! 

If you need us, we'll be diving into the mashed potatoes today and spending the holiday with friends and family...Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Love An Update On

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between! 

This Week's Theme: Characters I’d Love An Update On

After finishing a good book where I fall in love with some of the characters, it's natural to want to know how the rest of their lives continue (especially since I'm such a big romance reader and really want to know how their happily ever afters go!). For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, we have to pick ten characters (or sets of characters) from books we've read that we'd love an update on. So without further ado, here are my picks:

1. Mateo and Rufus from They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. I know Adam has actually hinted about this several times, and I would love to know if the two of them meet up again, even if I know it'll make me cry like a baby.

2. Elliot from Fresh by Margot Wood. Because she's so dang hilarious, and I'd love to see if she ever ends up really getting her life together.

3. Warner and Juliette from the Shatter Me series. Because let's be real: here at The Book Bratz, Warner and Juliette are our favorite characters of all time, so we want to know how the rest of their story plays out.

4. Zoey and James Stark from the House of Night series. I had the meanest crush on James Stark back when the books came out, so I would just really love to see where he is now. *swoon* 

5. Meredith and Whit from The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther. Because I've shipped them from the very first second that they were on the page together, and I would just love to see how that relationship is blooming right now.

6. Meg & Micah from Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn. Micah is another character that I had a big huge crush on while reading, so I'd love to see where he is now, and how thinks are going with him and Meg (and their families).

7. Josh and Clara from The Roommate by Rosie Danan. Anytime these two are on the page together, there's bound to be blushing and good times. So I'd love to see how things have changed for them, as well as what has stayed the same! We get a peek into their life in The Intimacy Experiment, which is a companion novel, but I'd love to see another book that focuses just on them, just so I can see where they are now.

8. Lila & Orion from A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey. While we get a glimpse into their lives at the end of the novel, being in love with someone from a totally different country from you has its struggles, I'm sure -- so I'd love to find out how they're making their relationship work right now.

9. Shay and Dominic from The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I mean, come on. This is one of the best books I read this year, and I could always use more Shay and Dominic. I want to see what they're up to right now. *mega swoon*

10. Pretty much any love interest from any Christina Lauren novel. They're all perfect and I'd love all of them in my life right now, please.

So those are ten characters from books that I'd like an update on! Does anyone else wonder what they're up to? Have some others that you'd like to check in on? Comment down below and let me know!

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Merry Ex-Mas by Elizabeth Janette

Merry Ex-Mas
Elizabeth Janette
Publication date: November 10th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Holiday, Romance

It’s been ten years since Delaney Silverman last stepped foot on the Silver Bells Christmas Tree farm her family owns and operates, but when her father dies, she has no choice. Even if it means mending fences with her estranged mother. The last thing this reformed wild-child-turned-Manhattan-marketing-pro has in mind, though, is a second chance at first love. But after life brings her face to face with the sexy, ex-fiancĂ© neighbor boy, she realizes he’s everything she never knew she needed.

Travis Harper knows two things to be true: 1. It’s time to adopt his foster daughter and build a custom home life for themselves, and 2. Laney Silverman is the last woman he’d ever trust with their hearts, even if she is everything he’s ever wanted. Especially since she has a bad habit of walking away from him.

Will twelve days be enough to give two former lovers a Merry Ex-Mas?

Goodreads / Amazon


Releasing her grip on the luggage, Laney wrapped her arms around her mom, pulling her into an awkward embrace.

Ruth stiffened. “What . . . are you doing?”

“Hugging you. Apparently it’s what people do when they’ve lost someone they love.”

“Yeah, well, stop it. I don’t need your sympathy.”

Whatever emotion Travis thought he saw when looking at Laney’s mother, it wasn’t there now. When she drew back and studied Ruth’s face, no tears clouded her eyes. No grief etched her expression. Only annoyance, pure and simple. Like always. Laney dropped her arms. Same old Mama. Lovable as a freaking porcupine.

Deep breath, girl. You can do this. For Dad. She peered up at the house. Despite the generous square footage of the single-story bungalow-style house, from the outside, the home appeared smaller, darker without her father’s presence. She swallowed hard to dislodge the lump of grief wedged in her throat and forced herself to enter the house.

Crossing the threshold tugged at the threads of memories she’d kept squirreled away. Not all of them welcome. It took only one whiff of the familiar cinnamon coffee scent before the years magically melted away, and she was eighteen again, chafing at the bit, dying for just one ounce of the freedom her friends possessed.

Laney shook off the ghosts that held her hostage and tried to only focus on the positive memories. The ones with her dad.

As she made her way through the living and dining room toward her old bedroom, a smile pulled at her lips as fond memories bubbled up. She’d been closest to her father and everywhere her gaze landed brought forth an image of him to warm her heart. Fingers drifted over the couch, threadbare now but still located in the same place against the wall. Her father’s most-coveted possession, a black leather recliner, nestled in the corner of the living room. The mantle above the stone fireplace where Christmas stockings once hung. The oil paintings of snow-covered barns in the middle of a forest.

An image of her father wafted through the recesses of her mind. Happy and smiling. The world could be falling apart around him, and he’d still be as jolly as good old St. Nick. Hard to believe he was gone. The urge to cry swelled, but she tamped it down like a good girl and turned away, plastering a smile on her face.

“Where on Earth are you going?”

“To my bedroom.”

Your bedroom?” Her mama tsked. “Good heavens, child, it stopped being your bedroom ages ago when you moved out.”

Laney used a foot to push open the bedroom door and stopped dead. “Good Lord Almighty, Mama, what have you done?”

It was like Santa’s workshop had materialized right in the middle of the room. Her mouth hung open as she gawked at the atrocity. Where once stood a vanity filled with cheap cosmetics only a teenager would buy, now a fake Christmas tree loomed, wilting under the weight of too many ornaments. Garland hung from the high shelf spanning the top of all four walls. A toy train chugged its way around the room. A workbench sat along one wall with a dozen or so holiday crafts waiting to be finished. The walls had been stripped of the soft turquoise blue hue her sixteen-year-old self had painstakingly selected, and replaced with a dreadful shade of gold that mirrored the tree ornaments.

And her daybed? Nowhere to be found. The half dozen or so NSYNC and Jonas Brothers rock band posters were conspicuously missing too. Gone were her hot-pink curtains, fuzzy beanbag, and black shag rug as well as anything remotely resembling her teenage years. All signs of her life there had been erased.

She’d been erased.

Author Bio:

Born to parents who loved to read, it’s no surprise Elizabeth Janette’s lifelong love of literacy led her to become both a teacher and a writer. In fact, writing about getting RIF’d from her teaching job in the 2008 recession is what led her to publish an essay about the experience. From then on, she was hooked. Now days, when she’s not teaching sassy 5th graders, Elizabeth Janette writes romance that both sizzles and thrills. And when she’s not teaching or writing, she works for her local chapter of the National Writing Project teaching teachers how to teach writing. Visit www.elizabethjanette.com to connect and sign up for her newsletter.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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We'd like to thank the team over at Xpresso for allowing us to be part of this book blitz! If MERRY EX-MAS sounds like the type of book you'd be interested in, don't forget to add it to your TBR! What are some of your favorite holiday reads?