2021 Debut Author Interview: Casie Bazay!

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 Casie Bazay and her novel NOT OUR SUMMER, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Casie on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Casie Bazay is former middle school teacher who now works as a freelance writer and editor. In her spare time, Casie enjoys exploring the great outdoors, spending time at the barn with her horses and goats, reading, and watching movies (especially young adult novel adaptations). She lives on a hay farm in northeastern Oklahoma with her husband and two children but loves traveling to new and exciting destinations whenever she can.

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

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

Casie: Thank you so much! Being a debut author has been an amazing experience so far. Overwhelming, in some ways, but still a dream come true. I’m trying not to take anything for granted because I’ve wanted to be where I am now for so, so long. There were a number of years when it felt like it might never happen for me, but I kept my eye on the prize, so to speak. I didn’t give up, and now I'm so happy to be where I am. 

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

Casie: My favorite part of the writing process is coming up with the story idea and getting started. It’s such a rush, imagining how the story might go when you first begin writing. Granted, it's much more difficult to get your idea to translate well on paper (or the computer screen), but it’s still fun when you're in the "dreaming" stage--at least for me. I’m not much of an outliner, but I have found that it's much easier if I have a more fully formed idea to begin with rather than just free falling into a story (been there, tried that!) I now write the query or a short synopsis first. Then I just dive right in and take character and setting notes as I go. The hardest part of the writing process for me is revising. Because I'm a “pantser” for the most part, it usually means I have to complete more revisions. While there are some parts of revising that I don't mind, I often find it tedious. Small changes in one scene often have a ricocheting effect, and I end up having to make lots of changes in subsequent scenes. Often times, the story I intended to tell in the beginning changes significantly by the time I get to that final revision. I’ve learned to accept this, and even expect it, but it is a LOT of work getting from first to final draft. 

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for NOT OUR SUMMER?

Casie: Not Our Summer was my fourth manuscript and was probably the first book idea that came to me as a more fully formed idea. I was mowing my horse pasture one late summer afternoon (in 2017, I believe) and wanted to use that “quiet” time to brainstorm my next book idea. I can't tell you where the idea came from exactly, but I envisioned these two teen cousins who didn’t get along, traveling together after the death of their grandfather. At first, I had the idea that the two cousins would be horseback for much of the book, traveling along some of the old cattle trails (my first three books focused heavily on horses, by the way). After doing a little research, however, I realized that this idea wouldn't work in a contemporary story because there's not much left of the old cattle trails. So I decided to go in a little different direction and just have them travel to places their agoraphobic grandfather wanted to go, but couldn't because of his condition. I also decided to make him an insect collector and a little quirky. Fun fact: Not Our Summer was originally titled The Bug Collector’s Bucket List.

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

Casie: I knew I wanted to tell this story in dual POV (which was a first for me) and one cousin in particular (K.J.) was very easy for me to envision. I was able to get inside K.J.’s head and I really enjoyed being there. Her sense of humor is not all that different from mine, though she’s much more adventurous and impulsive than I've ever been. She also has a very different background than I have, but I could easily empathize with her because I've known several ‘K.J.’s in my life. Becka took a lot more work for me to figure out, and I worried that she might come off as too unlikeable at first (though I wanted her to come off that way, to some extent). With multiple revisions, I finally discovered her voice, and in the end, I enjoyed finding a balance between K.J. and Becka's two personalities. I have to admit that writing some of the catty scenes between them was a lot of fun. I’ve never been much for real-life drama, but I really enjoyed stepping into their shoes for a while.

The Book Bratz: What are some other "bucket-list" books that you've enjoyed reading?

Casie: Honestly, I don't think I've read any other bucket list books. I used Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid as a comp title when I was querying, but that was mainly because of the travel aspect. I know they’re out there, but I don't think I've read any!

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from NOT OUR SUMMER?

Casie: First and foremost, I hope that readers find Not Our Summer entertaining. I hope that they’ll find the story interesting and heartfelt and fun. Maybe someone who’s dealt with family drama similar to what K.J. and Becka experience will gain some kind of insight through the girls’ and Grandpa Eli's perspectives, but overall I wrote this book because I thought it was a fun and endearing story to tell. I also hope that my love of nature and travel shines through, and that it will inspire people to travel to one (or several) of the places in the book if they’ve never been there. I’ve traveled to all of them except one! 

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of NOT OUR SUMMER in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Casie: As of right now, I don't have any plans to return to the world of Not Our Summer. I wrote it to be a standalone novel, but of course, I could always be persuaded if readers or a publisher wanted more. :-) I have a fifth book completed (currently putting the finishing touches on it before I send it to my agent). It's a YA contemporary romance. I don't want to say too much about it, but it's another dual POV story that deals with some serious topics. However, it also has fun and light-hearted aspects which I really love. Oh, and there's lots of dancing, football, and homemade food. :-) After this one, I have an idea for a YA thriller that takes place at a ranch for troubled teens and I'm super excited about that idea as well!

Title: Not Our Summer
Author: Casie Bazay 
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021

Summary: It's bad enough that estranged cousins Becka and KJ see each other at their grandfather's funeral, but when he leaves them a bucket list of places to visit together over the summer, so they can earn their inheritance, it seems like things are about to get much worse. However, with each trip the cousins complete -- like riding mules into the Grand Canyon or encountering a bear and a hot tour guide at Yellowstone -- they steadily learn about and begin to trust one another. That is until the truth behind Grandpa's bucket list, and their family feud, is revealed, testing Becka and KJ far beyond their limits. Will they find a way to accept each other or will their grandpa's wish to mend his divided family end up buried alongside him inside his grasshopper green casket?

Thank you so much to Casie for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about NOT OUR SUMMER and can't wait for it to be out in the world on May 11th! You can also check out Jessica's review of the book here.

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