2020 Debut Author Interview: Jenny Elder Moke!

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 Jenny Elder Moke and her novel HOOD, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Jenny on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Jenny Elder Moke writes young adult fiction in an attempt to recapture the shining infinity of youth. When she is not writing, shes gathering story ideas from her daily adventures with her two irredeemable rapscallions and honing her ninja skills as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Keep up with Jenny: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads / Facebook

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Jenny: Thank you! It is a conflagration of emotions. Most days it still feels surreal. I queried for yeeeaaaarrrrsssss on multiple projects without success, and then I was selected by Amy Trueblood for the Sun vs. Snow competition and ended up getting my agent a week later, and then we went out on sub maybe a month later, and then it sold five weeks after that. So it was almost like whiplash – years of trying and failing, to suddenly having an agent and a book deal and being a professional author. Emotions are like evolutionary mutations – they take time to respond to environmental changes. So my outward status changed very quickly, but in my head I was still that amateur writer scrabbling for somebody to just look at my stuff. I remember it took me a long time to stop reading MSWL for agents I liked because I had to remind myself I HAD an agent.
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what’s the best part of the writing process? What’s the hardest?
Jenny: At this point in my writing journey, the planning/daydreaming/character backstory bit is the absolute best. It’s the purest form of the story, before anyone else can weigh in on it – it’s just me and my imagination, thinking through the pieces, puzzling it all together, adding layers and intersections between characters. I went to one of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing workshops and she said something that blew my mind: that brain stew of images and feelings and imagined dialogue and memories is the actual story, and writing it down is just a translation. So now I let myself hang out in the brain stew longer, knowing that the story will lose fidelity once I try to translate it into words. The hardest bit for me will always and forever be revision. I’m a very linear thinker, so drafting is straightforward for me (and my first drafts tend to move relentlessly forward on the plot). But revision is tricky, and delicate, and involves the story at so many levels – big overall plot/character changes, chapter rewrites, line edits, etc. And you have to achieve them all at the same time. I tend to get so frustrated with revisions that I just completely rewrite things until they feel right. I don’t really recommend that technique, though.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for HOOD?
Jenny: I got it from watching the BBC version of Robin Hood they did back in the early 2000s. It was fun and cheeky, but still had serious plot lines and consequences for the characters, and I hadn’t seen Robin Hood done that way in a long time. Usually it was either very serious, or very campy (don’t get me wrong, I love Robin Hood: Men in Tights), and I liked that the show walked the line between the two vibes. Then I started imagining what would be an interesting take on a new Robin Hood story, and seeing as how I wanted to be a YA writer, the inspiration struck immediately – his daughter. It was a way to enjoy the best of the legend, while still telling a story that was new to the canon.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest?
Jenny: Oh, Robin was hands down my favorite to write. He’s ridiculous in the best way, and he’s so perfectly comfortable in himself he gets to be his best self. The Robin from the original stories was a great mix of being pompous and kind, braggardly and humble, always willing to play a trick whether it was on his friends or on the sheriff. So I really got to lean into that with him. The hardest characters for me to write are always the main characters, because they have the biggest journey. Everyone else around them gets to be kind of static, but the main characters really have to transform. Which means we have to see that transformation – which is sometimes painfully awkward or uncomfortable. It took several drafts for me to really get to know Isabelle – to understand her background, and how it would hold her back, and how it would narrow her world view, and then how this experience of searching for her father and trying to save her mother would open her mind and her world. For a long time I thought she was too soft, but I wanted a character who was more than just a badass. I wanted to see someone who wrestled with the morality of their choices, and how they affected other people. And that ended up being my favorite thing about her – that she keeps her humanity, that core of serving others that she grew up with, despite all the inhumanity around her.

The Book Bratz: What made you choose to re-imagine the story of Robin Hood?
Jenny: What ended up drawing me into this story (and kept me coming back through eight years of rewrites and multiple rounds of querying) was the intersection of high action/adventure and real historical setting. The version of Robin Hood that most people know takes place during King Richard the Lionheart’s reign. And we all know how the animated Robin Hood ends – King Richard swoops in to save Robin from his dastardly brother, the weasely Prince John, and Robin and Marien get married and the day gets saved and everybody dances with a chicken, right? Except in real history, Richard the Lionheart dies less than a year after returning from the Crusades. And then weasely Prince John becomes King John for TWELVE LOOOOONG YEARS. He’s one of the worst kings in history – which is, frankly, saying a lot. He’s so bad that his barons go to war against him to try and overthrow him. So, the history of who Robin Hood would be during that time period really fascinated me – what would happen to a man whose worst enemy becomes the king? What would happen to his happy little family? And it took off from there.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from HOOD?
Jenny: More than anything, I want this book to be what books were for me as a kid – an escape. I want kids to lose themselves in the story, to disappear in the greenery of Sherwood for a few hours and forget the real world and its real struggles and frustrations. And if they accidentally learn some real history along the way, they can’t really be mad at it, can they?

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of HOOD in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Jenny: Right now HOOD is planned as a stand-alone, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t return to Sherwood someday! The kids are poised on the edge of a life-changing event – the First Baron’s War. Plus, there’s that pesky sheriff of Nottingham to deal with…As far as future projects, I have some really exciting stuff percolating that I can't talk about just yet. But you'll be seeing more of me in the future!

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Title: Hood
Author: Jenny Elder Moke
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 9th, 2020

Summary: Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John's ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle's father, Robin Hood. As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf's clutches and find the father she's never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear? 

Thank you so much to Jenny for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about HOOD and can't wait for it to be out in the world on June 9th

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Blog Tour: Out Now: Queer We Go Again! by Saundra Mitchell (Excerpt!)

Happy Friday! Today we are super excited to be part of the blog tour for Out Now: Queer We Go Again! by Saundra Mitchell that was organized by Inkyard Press! Make sure to check out the excerpt below and then head on over to Goodreads to add it to your TBR! 

Title: Out Now: Queer We Go Again!
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Genre: Contemporary, LBGT
Publisher: Inkyard Press 
Publication Date: May 26th 2020
Hardcover, 416 pages
A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom…aliens run from the government…a president’s daughter comes into her own…a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer…a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops…skateboards and VW vans…Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page! This essential and beautifully written modern-day collection features an intersectional and inclusive slate of authors and stories.
Buy Out Now: Queer We Go Again!: Amazon / B&N / Indie Bound / Google Play / Apple Books


KICK. PUSH. COAST. By Candice Montgomery 
*Excerpted from OUT NOW: Queer We Go Again! Edited by Saundra Mitchell, used with permission by Inkyard Press, © 2020 by Inkyard Press.*

Every day, same time, same place, she appears and doesn’t say a word.

Well, she doesn’t just appear. She takes a bus. You know she takes a bus because you see her get off the bus right in front of 56th Street, just in front of the park where you skate.

You know she takes a bus and gets off right in front of the park at 56th Street because you are always at the park, wait-ing to catch a glance of her.

She—her appearance—is a constant. Unlike your sexuality, all bendy like the way your bones got after yesterday’s failed backside carve.

Bisexualpansexualdemisexualpanromanticenby all bleeding bleeding-bleeding…into one another.

That drum of an organ inside your chest tells you to just be patient. But now, here you are and there she is and you can’t help yourself.

She’s beautiful.

And so far out of your league.

You’re not even sure what she does here every day, but you probably shouldn’t continue to watch her while trying to nail a Caballerial for the first time. Losing focus there is the kind of thing that lends itself to unforgiving injuries, like that time you broke your leg in six places on the half-pipe or the time you bit clean through your bottom lip trying to take down a 360 Pop Shove It.

You’re still tasting blood to this very day. So’s your skate-board. That one got split clean in half.

She looks up at you from underneath light brown lashes that seem too long to be real. She reminds you of a Heelflip. You don’t know her well but you imagine that, at first, she’s a pretty complicated girl, before you get good enough to really know her. You assume this just given the way her hair hangs down her back in a thick, beachy plait, the way yours never could.

Not since you chopped it all off.

That’s not a look for a lady, your mom says repeatedly. But you’ve never been very femme and a few extra inches of hair plus that pink dress Mom bought you won’t change that.

You hate that dress. That dress makes you look like fondant. Someone nails a Laserflip right near where you’re standing and almost wipes out.

Stop staring. You could just go introduce yourself to her.

But what would you say?

Hi, I’m Dustyn and I really want to kiss you but I’m so confused about who I am and how am I supposed to introduce myself to you if I can’t even get my label right, oh, and also, you make me forget my own name.

And in a perfect world, she would make eyes at you. She’d make those eyes at you and melt your entire fucking world in the way only girls ever can.

Hi, Dustyn, I’m in love with you. Eyelashes. All batting eye-lashes.

No. No, the conversation probably wouldn’t go that way. Be nice if it did though. Be nice if anything at all could go your way when it comes to romance.

You push into a 360 ollie while riding fakie and biff it so bad, you wish you possessed whatever brain cells are the ones that tell you when to quit.

If that conversation did go your way, on a realistic scale, she’d watch you right back. You would nail that Caballerial.

Take a break. Breathe. Breathe breathe breathe. Try some-thing else for a sec.

Varial Heelflip. Wipe out.

Inward Heelflip. Gnarly spill.

Backside 180 Heelflip. Game, set, match—you’re finished. That third fail happens right in front of her and you play it off cool. Get up. Don’t even give a second thought to your battle wounds. You’re at the skate park on 56th Street because there’s more to get into. Which means, you’re not the only idiot limping with a little drug called determination giving
you momentum.

Falling is the point. Failing is the point. Getting better and changing your game as a skater is the point. Change.

But what if things were on your side? What if you’d stuck with that first label? What if Bisexual felt like a good fit and never changed?

Well, then you’d probably be landing all these 180s.

If bisexual just fit, you’d probably have been able to hold on to your spot in that Walk-In Closet. But it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit which kind of sucks because at Thanksgiving din-ner two years ago, your cousin Damita just had to open her big mouth and tell the family you “mess with girls.” Just had to tell the family, a forkful of homemade mac and cheese headed into said mouth, that you are “half a gay.”

That went over well. Grams wouldn’t let you sit on her plastic-lined couches for the rest of the night. Your great-uncle Damian told her gay is contagious. She took it to heart.

No offense, baby. Can’t have all that on my good couches. You glance up and across the park, memories knocking

things through your head like a good stiff wind, and you find her taking a seat.


Oh, she never does this. She never gets comfortable. She’s changing things up. You’re not the only one.

Maybe she plans to stay a while.

You love that she’s changing things up. You think it feels like a sign. It’s like she’s riding Goofy-Foot today. Riding with her right foot as dominant.

The first time you changed things up that way, you ended up behind the bleachers, teeth checking with a trans boy named Aaron. It felt so right that you needed to give it a name.

Google called it pansexual. That one stuck. You didn’t bother to explain that one to the family, though. They were just starting to learn bisexual didn’t mean you were gay for only half the year.

You pop your board and give the Caballerial another go.

It does not want you. You don’t stick this one either.

If pansexual had stuck, you’d introduce yourself to the beautiful girl with a smaller apology on your tongue. Hi, I’m Dustyn, I’ve only changed my label the one time, just slightly, but I’m still me and I’d really love to take you out.

And the beautiful girl would glance at your scraped elbows and the bruised-up skin showing through the knee holes in your ripped black skinny jeans. She’d see you and say, Hi, small, slight changes are my favorite. And then she’d lace her bubble-gum-nail-polished hand with yours.

But you changed your label after that, too. It was fine for a while. Your best friend, Hollis, talked you through the symp-toms of demisexuality.

No wonder holding the beautiful girl’s hand seems so much more heart-palpitating than anything else. A handhold. So simple. Just like an ollie.

You take a fast running start, throwing your board down, and end up on a vert skate, all empty bowl-shaped pools that are so smooth, your wheels only make a small whisper against them.

A whisper is what you got that first time you realized sex was not for you. Not with just anyone. This was…mmm, probably your biggest revelation.

It was like you’d been feeding your body Big Macs three times a day and suddenly—a vegetable!

Tic-tacking is when you use your entire body to turn the board from one side to the other. It’s a game of lower body strength, but also a game of knowing your weight and know-ing your board. You are not a tic-tac kind of girl.

You are not a girl at all. You are just…you.


That one’s sticking forever. You know it all the way through to your gut.

You make one more attempt, which probably isn’t super wise because you are so close to the spot where she’s sitting that not only will she see you bite the dust, but she’ll hear that nasty grunt you make when you meet the ground.

You coast by.

The friction vibrates up through your bearings and you know you’re going too fast because you start to feel a little bit of a speed-wobble, that lovely, untimely, oscillatory behavior that means bro, you are about to lose control.

And you hate that word. Control. You hate that word be-cause it is so very rare that you have any. Over your life, your sexuality, your gender, your pronouns, your heartbeat when you’re around your beautiful girl.

But then you do.

You gain control. And you nail that Caballerial.

And the three guys who’ve been watching you make an ass of yourself all afternoon pop their boards up, hold them over their heads and let out wolf shouts.

And you’re smiling so hard. You get like that when you nail a particularly difficult one. You’re smiling so hard you don’t notice the someone standing behind you.

Beautiful girl. You don’t even want to control your smile here.

“You did it,” she says.

Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture deliverer and a layout waxer. She's dodged trains, endured basic training and hitchhiked from Montana to California. She teaches herself languages, raises children and makes paper for fun. She is the author of Shadowed Summer and The Vespertine series, the upcoming novelization of The Prom musical, and the editor of Defy the Dark. She always picks truth; dare is too easy. Visit her online at www.saundramitchell.com.
 Keep up with Saundra:  Website / Twitter / Instagram 

Thank you so much Inkyard Press for reaching out to us about this tour! We are so excited to pick up our copies of Out Now: Queer We Go Again! and get reading. We hope everyone else found a new book to be on the look out for! 💛

Book Blitz: Echoes by Alice Reads (Spotlight & Giveaway!)

Happy Thursday! We are super excited to be part of the book blitz for Echoes by Alice Reeds! Amber read this book when it was first published and loved every moment of it and she is eagerly awaiting the sequel, Fractures. Check out her review of Echoes here if you haven't already! 


Amazon / iTunes / Entangled Publishing / B&N / Kobo 

Title: Echoes (Echoes #1)
Author: Alice Reeds
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Genres: Teen, Mystery, Suspense, Sci-Fi, Romance, Enemies -to-Lovers


“Fast-paced and thrilling. ECHOES is a heart-pounding and addictive love story.” —Mia Siegert, author of Jerkbait They wake on a deserted island. Fiona and Miles, high school enemies now stranded together. No memory of how they got there. No plan to follow, no hope to hold on to. Each step forward reveals the mystery behind the forces that brought them here. And soon, the most chilling discovery: something else is on the island with them. Something that won’t let them leave alive. Echoes is a thrilling adventure about confronting the impossible, discovering love in the most unexpected places, and, above all, finding hope in the face of the unknown.

Alice Reeds was born in a small town in Germany but spent her first eight years in Florida, USA. Later on, she moved back to Europe, where her family moved around a lot. She was raised trilingual and has a basic understanding of Russian, read and spoken. After getting her International Baccalaureate Diploma, Alice is studying English Language and Literature at University. During high school Alice used to be a dancer taking classical ballet classes five times a week along with several other types of dance. Unfortunately a knee injury ended her chances of taking her passion for dance any further. In her free time Alice mostly writes, reads, figure and/or roller skates, or watches countless let’s plays and figure skating videos.


Blog Tour: Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab (Excerpt!)

Happy Wednesday! Today we are super excited to be part of the blog tour for Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab that was organized by Inkyard Press! Make sure to check out the excerpt below and then head on over to Goodreads to add it to your TBR! 

Title: Breath Like Water
Author: Anna Jarzab
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Inkyard Press 
Publication Date: May 19th 2020
Hardcover, 416 pages
This beautifully lyrical contemporary novel features an elite teen swimmer with Olympic dreams, plagued by injury and startled by unexpected romance, who struggles to balance training with family and having a life. For fans of Sarah Dessen, Julie Murphy and Miranda Kenneally. Susannah Ramos has always loved the water. A swimmer whose early talent made her a world champion, Susannah was poised for greatness in a sport that demands so much of its young. But an inexplicable slowdown has put her Olympic dream in jeopardy, and Susannah is fighting to keep her career afloat when two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews. As Susannah begins her long and painful climb back to the top, her friendship with Harry blossoms into passionate and supportive love. But Harry is facing challenges of his own, and even as their bond draws them closer together, other forces work to tear them apart. As she struggles to balance her needs with those of the people who matter most to her, Susannah will learn the cost--and the beauty--of trying to achieve something extraordinary.
Buy Breath Like Water: Amazon / B&N / Indie Bound / Google Play / Apple Books


1,063 days until US Olympic Team Trials

FINA World Aquatics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
Women’s 200m Intermediate Medley Finals

The water is breathing. At least, that’s how it seems. I’ve always imagined it as a living thing, benevolent and obedient and faithful. A gentle beast at first, like a pony, but over time something faster. A thoroughbred, maybe. A cheetah sprinting across a flat, grassy plain.
But, of course, the water isn’t breathing—it’s rippling, with the echoing wakes of eight elite swimmers as they poured themselves into one last swim, one final chance to grab the golden ring. Now they’re gone, and in half a minute, I’ll be right where they were, reaching for my own shot at glory.
This is my first international competition. I turned fourteen in May, so I’m the youngest member of Team USA. In January, nobody knew who I was, but by my birthday I’d broken the women’s 200 IM record in my age group twice and finished first in the same event—my best—at World Championship Trials. My summer of speed earned me a lane here in Budapest. All I have to do now is not screw it up.

Earlier, in the semifinals, I clocked my fastest time ever in this event, and I’m coming into finals seeded third overall. I have to beat that by almost a second if I want to win.

The announcer introduces me over the loudspeaker. I wave to the crowd but my mind is far away, already in the pool, charting out my swim. I shake out my limbs and jump to get my blood pumping, then climb onto the block. I adjust my goggles, my cap, my shoulders. These little rituals feel solid and reliable. The rest is as insubstantial as a dream you’re aware of while you’re dreaming it.

“Take your mark—”

The signal sounds and I’m in the pool. My mind lags half a second behind my body, registering every breath, stroke and turn only after it happens.

First: butterfly, arms soaring over the water, fingertips skimming the surface.

Then: backstroke, concentrating on the lines in the ceiling while waves boil around me.

After that: breaststroke, stretching, pulling, kicking, gliding.

And finally: freestyle, bursting off the wall like a racehorse released from a starting gate.

I go six strokes without taking a breath and snap into my highest gear for a mad-dash last push, coasting along the razor’s edge of my perfectly timed taper. No thinking, just doing. No drag, only flight.

My hand touches the wall, and my eyes begin to burn. It’s over. Instinctively, I look for my coach. Dave’s on the sidelines, frowning, and I think: I blew it.

He notices me watching and breaks into a rare grin. Hopeful, I turn to the board. I can’t find my name, so I force myself to look at the top spot. There it is: RAMOS. Number freaking one.

I whoop and blow kisses at the people in the stands. They’re on their feet, chanting, “USA! USA!” American flags billow like sheets.

It cost my parents a fortune to fly themselves and my sister all the way to Europe on such short notice, credit cards stretched to their limits. I can’t even see them in the crowd, but I know they’re somewhere in that jubilant crush of people. My heart feels so full it’s like a balloon about to pop.

As soon as I’m out of the water, Dave wraps me in a bear hug.

“How do you feel?” he asks.

“Great!” I sigh and shake out my arms. “Tired.”

“Gold, Susannah,” he says. His voice is tight with something like awe.

Gold. It doesn’t feel real yet—won’t, until that medal hangs around my neck, until I can hold it in my hands while the national anthem blooms through the natatorium speakers with patriotic brio. Maybe not even then. I could have more wins here, but right now, this seems like more than enough.

“You’re a world champion,” Dave says. “Next, I’m going to make you an Olympian.”

*Excerpted from Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab, Copyright © 2020 by Anna Jarzab. Published by Inkyard Press.*

Anna Jarzab is a Midwesterner turned New Yorker. She lives and works in New York City and is the author of such books as Red Dirt, All Unquiet Things, The Opposite of Hallelujah, and the Many-Worlds series. Visit her online at annajarzab.com and on Twitter, @ajarzab.
 Keep up with Anna:  Website / Twitter / Instagram 

Thank you so much Inkyard Press for reaching out to us about this tour! We are so excited to pick up our copies of Breath Like Water and get reading. We hope everyone else found a new book to be on the look out for! 💙