2020 Debut Author Interview: Jamie Pacton!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Jamie Pacton and her novel THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Jamie on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 



Jamie Pacton

Jamie Pacton writes all sorts of books: dark, feminist YA fantasy; contemporary YA stories with a funny + geeky bent; funny MG adventure-fantasy; and, even the occasional adult rom-com. She was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2015 and she mentored YA in 2016, 2017, and 2018. She grew up minutes away from the National Storytelling Center in the mountains of East Tennessee; she’s the oldest of ten kids; and, she currently lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, their two kids, and a dog named Lego.

Keep up with Jamie: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Goodreads


The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Jamie: Thank you so much! So far being a debut author has been great, though weirdly enough, I actually had a MG book, FARFETCHED, come out under a pen name in October 2019 (which is a long story and which came as a total surprise), so I had a practice run of seeing my book in stores. With KIT, I’ve absolutely loved designing stickers, coming up with pre-order swag ideas, and connecting with readers. I’ve met so many wonderful people already (including some fierce women who work at Medieval Times), and I can’t wait to meet more readers soon. Also, I’ve had so many friends debut already that I feel like I’ve been through debut woes, worries, and wins with them, so I had an idea of what to expect. For me, one of the hardest parts of being a being a debut writer was balancing KIT edits with drafting my second YA contemporary, LUCKY GIRL, and then trying to promote KIT (all while working, parenting, and just keeping life stuff afloat). Also, of course, as I’m sure most spring 2020 debut authors are feeling right now, the state of the world is proving the biggest stress while debuting. So, (I’m writing this in mid-March), fingers crossed for things looking better by early May. 
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Jamie: I love getting a shiny new idea and chasing it down! Seriously, I love that part of the process so very much and I always have an idea backlog that’s 4-6 books deep.  I get my ideas from all sorts of things— for example, the YA fantasy I’m currently drafting came from a random name of a (now defunct) boutique in the tiny town next to mine. I was charmed by the store’s name and I simply had to figure out: what’s the story of book with this same name? After getting new ideas, I also love finding out who characters are, crafting beautiful sentences, and seeing how plot points can slot together (it’s like poetry or math when it all falls into place). I think drafting is the hardest part of writing because the 70,000+ word space between the book you’ve imagined and the book you get to revise is long and lonely. I try to write 2000 words a day, and I fast draft, just to get ideas on the page. Once the book is on the page in some form, it’s time for my very favorite part of writing:  revisions. This is where I stretch out as a writer, let myself sink into descriptions, give my characters more emotions than those conveyed by shrugging and grinning (lol), and really tighten the plot. 

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY?
Jamie: I wrote a whole Twitter thread on this :-) , but the short story is that a few months after the terrible results of the 2016 election, I took my youngest son to Medieval Times in Chicago. We’d talked a lot during the election cycle about feminism and a female president; and, although I didn’t go into the night of medieval fun and pageantry thinking I’d emerge with a book, as I watched the male knights ride and the female wenches serve us food (and as I talked with them), it occurred to me that we should have knights of all genders. And thus Kit’s quest was born. (Twitter thread here)

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?
Jamie: Overall, this book wrote so easily and fast for me. From the first time Kit’s voice rang out in my head, it was basically a gallop to the end of the book. Kit was my favorite character to write because I gave myself license to just let her be as weird, nerdy, and fierce as she could be, and that meant we ended up in some strange places (ahem, like inside a dumpster looking for her phone, something which may or may not have been plucked from my life exactly (just sub phone for keys)). I also really enjoyed all the banter her friends, crafting the sweet relationship between her and her older brother, and really digging into this slow burn friends-to-lovers arc with her best friend, Jett. The hardest character to write was King Len, Kit’s uncle, because he kept wanting to end up like a caricature of a villain. I mean, it’s hard to care about a guy who deeply believes his Costco membership makes him better than poorer people like Kit; but, I did try to make him more complex in places and he does get a little bit better eventually.

The Book Bratz: Cheesy restaurant themes are a big part of this book! What are some other cheesy restaurants you've visited before?
Jamie: I love cheesy theme restaurants! When I was in college, I worked at Ed Debevics in Milwaukee for 5 years. Ed’s was a super-cheesy 50’s-style themed diner, where we servers had to dress in costumes (think 50’s vintage dresses, go-go boots, big hair, etc.) and we were supposed to be funny and rude to the customers. We also had to dance several times a shift on the counters to songs like “At the Car Wash”. Mostly it was silly and fun, and I drew on my time at Ed’s for the server camaraderie and waiting table scenes in KIT. Beyond this, I’ve been to other themed restaurants like The Rainforest Cafe, The Hard Rock Cafe, and all sorts of weird ones at Disney. That said, I feel like nothing compares to the sheer magnitude of delightful cheesiness that’s a night at Medieval Times. My youngest son and I love going there (though, of course, we’d love it more if there were some non cis-male knights out there fighting, just saying). 

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY?
Jamie: I hope readers laugh a lot while reading KIT. There’s a lot of hard + ugly in the world, and I hope KIT offers a short escape from all that for a while. I’d love if KIT makes readers believe that small changes, even when enacted by only a few people, can have a positive impact on the wider world. I also hope KIT makes readers re-think what they know about the Middle Ages and helps them understand that the all white spaces + heroic male knights vision of medieval times that’s been promulgated for so long is not an accurate picture and that it was put forth by historians with sexist/racist agendas (even if these views were implicit and/or products of their time). We can do better in how we think about the diverse, richly interesting Middle Ages. I also hope that readers leave KIT with a sense that feminism is an inclusive movement, not one just limited to cis women. Finally, I hope this book leaves you hungry for pancakes. No, just kidding about that. But there are a lot of pancake jokes in there that I included simply because my wonderful partner loves pancakes, and so pancakes are basically the purest symbol of love in my world. <3

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Jamie: I’d love to write more in KIT’s world! What I’d really love to do is take the characters from KIT and put them in a summer job Ren Faire setting. I’m not sure if that’ll happen, but maybe I’ll pitch the idea to my editor. :-) My next YA contemporary with Page Street is called, LUCKY GIRL. It comes out in 2021, and it’s about 17-year-old Fortuna Jane Belleweather, a girl from a small town in Wisconsin who has just won 58 million dollars in the lotto. (Can you even imagine winning that much money?) Jane’s a minor, and there’s no way she’s letting her hoarder mother get the money, so she has to lie, scheme, and even pull off a bit of a heist to keep her lotto win a secret until she turns eighteen in two weeks. This book is  funny, but it’s got sharper edges than KIT. I laughed and cried a lot while writing it, and I hope readers like it because I put a whole lot of my heart into this one too. 

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Title: The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly
Author: Jamie Pacton
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: May 5th, 2020

Summary: Kit Sweetly slays sexism, bad bosses, and bad luck to become a knight at a medieval-themed restaurant. Working as a wench―i.e. waitress―at a cheesy medieval-themed restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, Kit Sweetly dreams of being a knight like her brother. She has the moves, is capable on a horse, and desperately needs the raise that comes with knighthood, so she can help her mom pay the mortgage and hold a spot at her dream college. Company policy allows only guys to be knights. So when Kit takes her brother’s place and reveals her identity at the end of the show, she rockets into internet fame and a whole lot of trouble with the management. But the Girl Knight won’t go down without a fight. As other wenches join her quest, a protest forms. In a joust before Castle executives, they’ll prove that gender restrictions should stay medieval―if they don’t get fired first.

Thank you so much to Jamie for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY and can't wait for it to be out in the world on May 5th

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