2020 Debut Interview: Olivia Smit!

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 Olivia Smit and her novel SEEING VOICES, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Sheena on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 



Olivia  Smit

Olivia Smit is passionate about writing Young Adult fiction that faces hard truth with hope and encouragement. She was born in Ontario, Canada, and loves small towns: although she has never lived in one, she writes about them often!

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


The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Olivia: Thank you so much! When people ask, I tend to use phrases like “this is the WILDEST experience,” or “I feel like I’m living a dream,” and while both of those phrases are true, they are so small compared to how truly surreal it feels to be a debut author! On one hand, this feels so right – and on the other hand, I still can’t believe it’s actually happening. (Don’t pinch me, though, okay?)
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Olivia: I think the best part of the writing process is the beginning of the first draft, when your story idea is fresh, new, and exciting … when you’re just starting to get words down on the page and you haven’t written yourself away from your outline yet (LOL!) For me, the hardest part of the writing process is the planning BEFORE the rough draft. I write character-driven stories, which means the people I write about feel super real to me, but I have a hard time nailing down specific plot points. I am not naturally a brainstormer, but thinking and dreaming is a huge and important part of the writing process! So I brainstorm as best I can and grit my teeth until the outline is done and I can move onto the fun part – writing.  

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for SEEING VOICES?
Olivia: SEEING VOICES is the book I desperately wanted to read when I was in high school, but couldn’t find. When I was a teenager, I wanted a happy ending! I wanted families who loved each other! I wanted characters who asked the big, messy questions, and didn’t always have neat and tidy answers by the time the book was over. I wanted to see better deaf/hard-of-hearing representation in YA fiction, and characters who discovered God in a way that didn’t feel formulaic. I wanted to see the other side of trauma: the way it affects a whole family instead of just the person who physically experiences it. And so, the hunger for this type of story really became the motivation to write SEEING VOICES.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?
Olivia: This is a CRAZY-HARD question to answer! I love all my characters and really enjoyed writing Cam, Anastasia, Skylar, and Mike almost equally. Cam is so sweet, Anastasia is so wacky, and Mike is so broken … and I feel soft and sensitive for each of them in different ways. Skylar was a lot of fun (mostly because of her internal monologue) but was probably also the most challenging character to write. I wanted her experience as a hard-of-hearing character to be authentic and believable, so I was always considering that as I wrote from her point of view. I was lucky enough to have some friends with personal experience who helped make sure I got the details right!

The Book Bratz: This book deals a lot with sibling bonds and relationships. Who are your favorite pop culture siblings? 
Olivia:The Covey family (from Jenny Han’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”) is one of my favourite pop culture families! The sibling relationships between Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty felt so authentic to me as I was reading: each of the characters was imperfect, and they didn’t always get along, but the bond they shared was clear. I have two siblings myself, and I love reading stories that portray sibling relationships in a positive and loving way … while still honestly showing the clashes that sometimes occur.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from SEEING VOICES?
Olivia:My favourite books, as a reader, are those that connect with me in a way that make me feel seen and understood. The most comforting and healing books have been the ones that made me feel like I wasn’t alone, like there are other people out there who think like me and are going through the same types of things I struggle with. My hope for SEEING VOICES is that it inspires that same type of comfort in readers. I want to give people hope that they can go through tough stuff and come out stronger – that they can struggle with their relationships and still have a happy ending. I hope SEEING VOICES encourages readers to ask the big questions about God, about pain, about family. In life, we rarely get the simple, “cookie-cutter” answers we desire, and I want people to know that it's okay to get confused and even upset as we wrestle with that. I hope Seeing Voices makes space for the messy, complicated bits of life ... and I hope people feel like they can use that space to figure things out for themselves, too.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of SEEING VOICES in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Olivia:I don’t have concrete plans to return to Skylar’s story, but I’m always dreaming about what it would be like to revisit the world of SEEING VOICES a few months after the book ends … I’d love to dive into what happens next! I do, however, have other projects in mind! I’m in the process of trying to find an agent for yet another book. The tentative title for this project is LOVE, DARCY, and I’m currently chatting through my querying journey on Twitter! (So far it’s been a lot of rejections – which is normal! I’m trying to share all about my writing journey … not just the highlights!) On top of publishing and querying, I’m writing another book as well! I’m about halfway through the rough draft, so I won’t say anything about that project – it needs a lot of work before I’ll be ready to share it with the world!

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Title: Seeing Voices
Author: Olivia Smit
Publisher: WhiteFire Publishing
Publication Date: April 15th, 2020

Summary: Skylar Brady has a pretty good idea of how her life is going to turn out, and getting in a car accident the summer before twelfth grade isn’t supposed to be part of the plan. Although Skylar escapes mostly unharmed, the accident has stolen more than just her hearing from her: she’s also lost the close bond she used to have with her brother. When her parents decide to take a house-sitting job halfway across the province, it’s just one more thing that isn’t going according to plan. As the summer progresses, Skylar begins to gain confidence in herself, but as she tries to mend her relationship with her brother, she stumbles upon another hidden trauma. Suddenly, she’s keeping as many secrets as she’s struggling to uncover, and creating more problems than she could ever hope to solve.

Thank you so much to Olivia for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about SEEING VOICES and can't wait for it to be out in the world on May 14th

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Everything's Not Fine by Sarah Carlson





Hi everyone! Today on the blog, we have a spotlight and excerpt for Everything's Not Fine by Sarah Carlson -- so without further ado, let's get into it!

ABOUT THE BOOK


49171884Title: Everything's Not Fine
Author: Sarah Carlson
Hardcover, 304 Pages
Publishing May 26th, 2020


Summary: 
Seventeen-year-old Rose Hemmersbach aspires to break out of small town Sparta, Wisconsin and achieve her artistic dreams at Belwyn School for the Arts after she graduates. Painting is Rose’s escape from her annoying younger siblings and her family’s one rule: ignore the elephant in the room, because talking about it makes it real. That is, until the day Rose finds her mother dying on the kitchen floor of a heroin overdose. Kneeling beside her, Rose pleads with the universe to find a heartbeat. She does – but when her mother is taken to the hospital, the troubles are just beginning. Rose and her dad are left to pick up the pieces. Now all that matters are her siblings. Rose doesn’t have room to do her schoolwork, let alone pick up a paintbrush. Until Rose is forced to do the homecoming mural with Rafa, a new senior at Sparta High. Rose and Rafa don’t have an ounce of school spirit between them, but Rose discovers her brain still has room to paint. As Rose fights to hold everything together, and her dreams of the future start to slip from her grasp, she must face the question of what happens when – if – her mom comes home again. And if, deep down, if Rose even wants her to.

EXCERPT

At the kitchen table, Sage and Hollis shovel Lucky Charms into their mouths. Hollis sits up tall today, so you can really see the six inches he now has on Sage. Dad sets the milk and box of Lucky Charms in front of my bowl. Today, his tucked-in dusty-blue shirt accentuates his steel-blue eyes. His beer belly hangs over his John Deere belt buckle. 
“Rosey, had a dream last night you were the champ of the whole dart league. Won it with a pink dart.” Dad pops a mounding spoonful of cereal into his mouth. A dribble of milk runs into his blond five-o’clock shadow. He cuffs it away. 
“Pink? Ugh. Bet Travis and them would flip their shit if I used a pink dart,” I say. 
“Language, Rosey.” 
“Flip their crap just doesn’t work, Dad.” Lucky Charms clink as I shake some into my bowl. I get an unusually high ratio of pots of gold. 
He messes up my hair. 
“Stop.” I bat his huge oil-stained hand away. 
“Don’t think I can mess that hair up.” Dad shakes his hand out like something’s stuck to it, wearing a million-dollar grin that allegedly melted all the girls’ hearts senior year when he was voted “best smile.” “I swear you use Gorilla Glue.” 
I roll my eyes with a smile I can’t stop. 
“Pink’s the worst,” Sage spouts from behind the Great Wall of Cereal Boxes she’s constructed around herself in the epitome of eight-year-old orneriness. 
Violet bounds out of the bathroom. “No, pink’s the best!” she erupts with such conviction you’d think Sage said the sky was green. She jumps into her chair next to me. Judging by her pink nose, she’d been running around outside without sunblock again. Freckles speckle her cheeks. 
Mom and Dad’s bedroom door creaks open. Mom emerges, a shadow against the sun seeping through their curtains. She cuts through the muted light of the living room. A sheen of sweat glistens on her forehead, dotted with fresh red scars from picking. 
“Mommy!” Vi launches at her and crushes her slight frame into a hug. 
Even from across the kitchen, I can smell the stench of her dealer Jeremy’s secondhand smoke. 

“Hiya, Vi Pie.” Her voice has a slight slur. Mom’s fingers fumble into Vi’s lopsided pigtails. Her blue-green eyes have an unfocused glaze to them, and her pupils are practically the size of periods. Yup, she’s high.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah  Carlson

Sarah J. Carlson writes contemporary YA that delves into complex, real-world problems. Professionally, she is a school psychologist with a professional focus around supporting the success of children with behavioral and mental health needs and helping to promote resilience in children who have been exposed to trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Sarah lives outside Madison, Wisconsin with her husband, two young children, and an energetic terrier.


We'd like to thank Sarah for being awesome enough to reach out to us about this and for letting us share this excerpt! 

ARC Review: Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

Title: Chasing Lucky
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Teen
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 416 Pages
Publication Date: May 5th, 2020


Summary: Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there. What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame. Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

I received an advanced copy of Chasing Lucky in exchange for an honest review, and let me tell you, I'm SO glad that I did. I've been a huge fan of Jenn Bennett ever since the day a few years ago where I Tweeted that I needed some new romance recs, and our good blogging friend Brooke at Brooke Reports suggested Alex, Approximately, which I hadn't ever read. When she found out that I didn't know anything about any of Jenn's books, she was so shocked that she immediately bought a copy and sent it to my house, which is still one of the sweetest things that has ever been done for me. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with Jenn's writing, and have been hooked ever since -- so when I found out about Chasing Lucky, I just knew that I had to have a copy! So without further ado, let's get into my review!

As the summary says, Josie is reeling when she and her nomad mother finally find themselves returning to Beauty, a small Rhode Island coast town that her family is from. She's only set on returning as a pit stop before she can follow her dream of moving to LA and being with her famous photographer father. But her stay in Beauty has more to it than she ever expected, and she quickly finds herself getting tangled up with Lucky, the local bad boy and her former childhood best friend. And on top of that, the mystery of why Josie and her mom suddenly left Beauty in the middle of the night five years ago starts to unravel...and Josie's supposed short stay ends up having more drama than she could've ever expected.

I really enjoyed reading this book! Jenn's stories have that light, swoon-worthy feel that make them really easy to breeze through, and it makes them really enjoyable. I tore through this book from start to finish because it was just so good and I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. There is so much drama, and such an air of mystery, on top of a burning romance, which means that this book was the perfect combination of emotions that hooked me from start to finish. If you were a fan of Alex, Approximately or Starry Eyes, then it's safe to say that I think you'd definitely enjoy this book, too!

My favorite character in this book was definitely Lucky. As a reader, I tend to always have a thing for the mysterious, brooding, misunderstood bad boys, and this case was certainly no different. Especially when he's the talk of the town. I found myself crushing on him from the very first page, and all of his interactions with Josie were super...interesting, to say the least! I'm trying really hard not to spoil anything here, but I'll definitely say that Lucky was my favorite character of the bunch, and although he's super complicated and pretty rough at the edges, he really is so adorably sweet.

Overall, I really loved reading Chasing Lucky. If you're looking for a contemporary romance to take your mind off of all of the scary stuff going on in the world right now, then I recommend looking no further than this one! This was the first book I picked up and settled in with during the start of social distancing, and it was such a sweet, adorable story that pulled me in from the very beginning and had me hooked until the very end. It definitely made the time pass quickly. Once again, hats off to Jenn Bennett -- I'm excited to read more from her in the future!



 

Waiting On Wednesday: Beach Read by Emily Henry


"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! 

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Title: Beach Read
Author: Emily
Publisher: Berkley
Paperback, 384 Pages
Publication Date: May 19th, 2020



Summary: Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They're polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block. Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Two totally different people who are WRITERS? One of them a ROMANCE WRITER? And they're on a BEACH? And they're NOTHING ALIKE? You guys, if you know me, you know that this is EXACTLY the kind of story I'm in love with. I even just sent an ARC request to the publisher because I am so freaking excited and this sounds like the kind of story that would be right up my alley. So if you'll excuse me, I'll be eagerly awaiting this book's release date, because it sounds like Emily Henry cooked up the perfect book filled with all of the things I love, and I can't wait to be sitting on a beach this summer while reading it. I really, really can't wait!!

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Rom-Coms for Vacations


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: Rom-Coms for Vacations
This week's theme was a genre freebie, so of course, we all know that I chose rom-coms. I decided to spin it in the direction of some good rom-coms to take with you on vacation, because it's around spring break time for a lot of college students, and everyone always wants a handful of books to bring along with them that are engaging, quick, and totally fun. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are ten rom-coms that I recommend taking along with you on your next vacation!

1. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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This has quickly become one of my favorite books of all time -- I mean, come ON! It's enemies-to-lovers, a rom-com, AND set in a publishing house?!?!!?! This SCREAMS me!!


2. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

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Because any Sally Thorne rom-com is perfect for a vacation.

3. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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Enemies to lovers set in Hawaii. Enough said.

4. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

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Because all of Jasmine's books are fantastic, but this cover and this entire story was just SO fun and I loved reading it!

5. Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

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If you were a fan of Crazy Rich Asians, then this is definitely the book for you!

6. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory 

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Ah, the book that started it all. I loved this one!!! Drew is seriously my favorite!

7. Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

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I'm a huge Sarah Dessen fan, so I'd really take any of her books with me on vacation, but I love this one in particular because it involves weddings and a wedding planning business, and we all know that I'm a huge hopeless romantic! 

8. If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka

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This book cover gives off total summer vibes -- and the story is hilarious and really captivating, too!

9. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

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Because of course I couldn't include the other two books and not this one!! This was probably one of my favorites, TBH. But like I said, all of Jasmine's books are fantastic!! 

10. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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This one is pretty much a given and everyone knows about it already, but it's SO adorable and hysterical and sweet, and it's SUCH a quick read because you won't be able to put it down, so it's perfect to take with you on a vacation!

  So those are ten rom-coms that I recommend you bring along with you! What do you think of my recommendations? Do you have any of your own? Comment down below and share your thoughts with me! :-)