Author to Author + Book Review: HOW WE FALL by Kate Brauning

One of the best things about being a debut author has been getting to know some of the other amazing young adult authors. I had the privilege of meeting Kate Brauning at a conference where we instantly connected. We discussed writing, her publishing journey, and some of the things that inspired her to write her debut, HOW WE FALL.

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Summary:

When Jackie’s best friend leaves town and is feared murdered, Jackie throws herself into a relationship with her cousin that neither of them can control. Neither Jackie nor Marcus can separate love from obsession.
As the long, hot summer lengthens, they grow closer, despite their best efforts to stay apart, despite knowing that their secret love could tear their families apart.

Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn’t right about this stranger, and Jackie’s suspicions about the new girl’s secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus.

When Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else’s lies, the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?

How We Fall is available through:
Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound |Walmart.com |Books-A-Million |Book
Depository| Powell’s |Walmart |Target
Amazon.com| Amazon.ca Amazon.co.uk

Find HOW WE FALL on Goodreads

My Review:

HOW WE FALL is a captivating read—a thrilling page-turner with an achingly powerful love story.

It’s hard to believe this is Brauning’s debut because she is such a masterful writer—particularly in terms of character and dialogue. I knew I was in good hands from the first page. The main character, Jackie, is a strong character with a bit of an ‘old soul’, a witty voice, and moments of raw, teenage vulnerability.

Brauning peels back a curtain on a social dynamic I have never experienced, and she does it with authenticity that rings from every page. Rarely have characters felt so real to me as they did in this story. I enjoyed the banter between Jackie and Marcus so much, that I re-read entire scenes!

I enjoy stories about conflicted love and romance, and this book approaches this in a construct I’d never read before. HOW WE FALL explores the relationship of best friends and cousins, Jackie and Marcus, whose families happen to live together. This aspect of the book is fascinating. Brauning’s portrayal of the sort of ‘hippy’ parents and their unusual community style of parenting is an utterly unique setting, and the catalyst for much of the tension between Jackie and Marcus. The two are thrown together in roles of caring for their families, (they practically raise the younger siblings, as well as contribute toward the family’s income!) The bond they share is close and genuine . . . and yet inherently wrong in a social sense.

Brauning is not afraid to explore this—and push readers to really consider ideas of love and what is acceptable and true and right. The sexual tension explodes off the page at times, counterbalanced with such honest emotion, at times I was left cheering or cringing.

Though the relationship between Marcus and Jackie is the foundation of the story, it’s also a thriller that explores the mysterious disappearance of Jackie’s best friend. Both plot lines will keep readers turning pages long into the night.

In turns heartbreaking and hopeful, HOW WE FALL takes readers on a one-of-a-kind journey of poignant friendship, passion, mystery and danger. This is one of the books where I’ve dog-eared pages with dialogue that made me laugh out loud, and poignant moments—even sentences—written by a talented author. You know a book is good when you want to go back and re-live a moment with them. Brauning’s characters did more than entertain me—they leaped off the page and made me see love in a whole new light.

My review on Goodreads

 

Author to Author

(I throw a few questions at an author, and they throw one back at me.)

Jenny asked Kate:

What are you working on now?

A brand-new YA thriller! Without saying too much, it’s a survival story about 10 teenagers stranded in the Ozarks. It’s also a sister story, told from the points of view of two sisters, Tara, who was seriously bullied in middle school, and Laurel, who was involved in bullying Tara.

What has been your favorite part of the publishing process (so far)?

Discovering myself. Finding out the ways in which I’m social, and the things that make me passionate and the things I want to advocate for. Finding friends who are going through the same things and working for similar things. Discovering that I love writing enough that I’d be doing it whether or not everything works out. Finding an industry that makes me a better writer, through being supported by great author friends, working with wonderful critique partners and editors. And finally, connecting with readers– it never stops being amazing and fulfilling when someone loves a story that I put such time, sweat, sometimes years, and always passion into writing.

Describe HOW WE FALL in 5 words:

An extreme best friends romance.

What advice do you have for writers?

Read two books a week, one in the genre you want to write, and one outside the genre. Write fearlessly, without worrying about what mistakes you might be making. Learn constantly, by reading great books on craft, listening to the writers you love speak on writing, and by getting good feedback from other writers who can challenge you.

 

Kate asked Jenny:

What inspired you to write your book?

I wanted to write something that would engage readers—even teenage boys like my ‘reluctant reader’ son. I paid attention to the books (like LEGEND, GONE, and MAZE RUNNER) that held his interest. I had written other books, but none with the pacing and stakes of FLASHFALL.

Also, I was at a place in my publishing attempts where doors just kept closing. I’d get several full requests from agents, but still no offers of representation. I’m talking about years of rejection. Writing—and trying to get published—requires you to face your fears over and over again. So I wrote about that in FLASHFALL—a girl who pushes past her fears because she believes there is something better beyond what she can see in the moment.

Find FLASHFALL on Goodreads

KateBandme

                          Kate and Jenny at the 2015 Midwest Writers Workshop

 

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Author to Author + ARC Review: SHALLOW GRAVES by Kali Wallace

One of the best things about being a debut author has been getting to know some of the other amazing young adult authors publishing their books in 2016. I had the privilege of reading the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Kali Wallace’s SHALLOW GRAVES, and she agreed to answer a few questions about her publishing experience.

ShallowGraves_cover reveal

Summary:

Breezy remembers leaving the party, the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to the face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain the necklace of bruises around her neck. She also can’t explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch.

Returning home seems impossible. Her parents and sisters have clearly grieved and struggled to move on, and Breezy can’t begin to answer their inevitable questions. Her heartbeat comes and goes, she doesn’t need to eat or drink, she can see the inky memories of murderers, and she can somehow pull on this dark guilt to kill them. Haunted by the happy memories from her life and disgusted by the half-dead creature she’s become, Breezy embarks on a reckless quest to find answers and a dangerous healing magic…but the cure is as dark and terrible as the disease.

Set in a gorgeous, terrifying world, Shallow Graves is a stunning novel about the heartbreaking trauma of a girl’s life cut short and her struggle to reconcile her humanity with the creature she’s become.

Find SHALLOW GRAVES on Goodreads

Pre-order now or find it on shelves Jan. 26, 2016

My Review:

I could not put this book down! It was entertaining from the first page to the last. The premise is so intriguing. From the first sentence, I was hooked by the story questions—and they emerged into more and more interesting questions as the story unfolded. I was immediately drawn in by the fantastic writing. Kali Wallace is an artful storyteller, and the queen of metaphors! But that is just icing on the cake of this enthralling tale.

Wallace builds a whole world of re-imagined creatures, with their own characteristics and mythos—all woven together with the over-arching mystery of the main character, Breezy. She is a well-drawn, witty and sympathetic character that I liked immediately—and loved by the end. The author writes such fantastic dialogue! I looked forward to the exchanges Breezy shared with a most interesting cast of characters.

I recommend this book—especially to fans of shows like Supernatural, Grimm, and anyone who enjoys suspense, mystery, and a bit of horror.

My review on Goodreads

Author to Author

(I throw a few questions at an author, and they throw one back at me.)

Jenny asked Kali:

 

What has been your favorite part of the publishing process (so far)?

I have two answers, one about writing and one about people.

The answer about writing is: edits and revisions! Is that a strange answer? Writers complain about edits and revisions all the time, because they are, indeed, a terrifying amount of work. But there is also something wonderful about having my story be picked apart and pieced back together into something stronger and better with the guidance of fantastic editors.

I love that even after I’ve pushed a story as far as I know how to push it, my agent and my editor can come along and say, “Oh, my sweet summer child, we are not done yet,” and open up ways to make it even better. It’s a fantastic feeling to look at the book in ARC form and compare it to the appallingly terrible first draft I finished way back when and see how much it has evolved and improved over time.

My second answer is a lot more squishy with feelings, because it’s all about the people I’ve met as I’ve been going through this process. Other writers are my favorite people in the world, and being a debut author means I get to connect with tons of them to commiserate and laugh and encourage, and I love it. It’s so much fun it ought to be illegal.

 

What advice do you have for writers?

Stop worrying about what you think other people want to read. Seriously. Just stop. STOP. Don’t do it. If you are trying to please an audience by reverse-engineering what’s popular or beloved in other books, readers are going to be able to tell, and they will not be impressed.

I see so many writers say things like, “I have this idea, but I don’t think anybody wants it,” or “I would write this, but that’s not what readers want,” or, worst of all, “I bet I could get published, if I wrote something like those other things,” and I just want to shake every single one of them. Write what you want to write instead. If you don’t, it shows and it’s never pretty. Readers are not idiots; they can tell when you’re trying to be something you’re not.

But they can also tell when you are being sincere, when a story really matters to you. So write the story that’s under your skin and in your guts and haunting the corners of your house and whispering in the back of your mind. If you don’t have that story yet, write until you find it. You will eventually.

 

Describe your book in five words:

Being undead is so overrated.

 

What inspired you to write your book?

This book is what happens when somebody who watched too much Supernatural back in the day, back when it was new and more importantly when it still had a kickin’ soundtrack, starts to think, “But what if all those monsters getting hunted don’t want to be monsters? What if they’re just people living in the best way they know how? What if they’ve got friends and family waiting for them to come home, always worrying that some crazy-ass humans with more weaponry than good sense are going to hunt them down?”

And of course once I started to think like that, I started feeling really bad for all those monsters who just wanted to be left alone in their monstrous lives, and the whole thing just kind of… grew from there, gathering up a whole bunch of other ideas about life and grief and trauma and being a teenage girl in the world. But it started with the monsters. Story ideas are like mushrooms. You don’t even know they’re waiting there in the dark for the right conditions, then suddenly your entire life is covered with suspicious squishy colonies that appeared overnight.

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced getting published?

Like many authors (most authors?), the first book I sold was definitely not the first book I tried to sell. My first novel was on submission for something like 10 months, with something like 30 editors saying, “Thanks, but no thanks,” or, “Wow, no, this is way too gross,” or not saying anything at all. It is very discouraging! There’s no sense in pretending that it’s not discouraging. Even if the editors are saying encouraging things and asking to see more, it still sucks.

But, well, there’s also no sense in doing anything with all that time but working harder, so when my agent and I realized this first book probably wasn’t going to get any traction, we started working on getting the second one into shape, and I was also working on writing a whole new manuscript.

I think it’s easy to get stuck in the rut of thinking, “They have to want THIS STORY or else nothing matters,” but loving your story and wanted to see it published is one thing, and being so precious about it you hang all of your hopes on it is another. It wasn’t easy, to get over that initial disappointment, but I think it became easier once I realized the only thing I could really do, because it was the only thing that was 100% within my control, was to keep writing more. And more and more and more.

 

Kali asked Jenny:

Without spoilers—what is your favorite scene in your book? Why?

One of my favorite scenes in FLASHFALL is actually a kissing scene, LOL! But I don’t love this scene simply for the romance—it’s a moment following an attack in a prison camp, when Dram sort of “talks” Orion down from an emotional cliff. Their world is utterly shaken, but they help remind each other what is constant.

It’s a scene with kissing, but it’s really about finding the light in dark times, and holding on to what is true—even when the rest of your world implodes.

The line at the end is my favorite. It would be spoiler-y for me to describe it, so I’ll just say that Orion realizes how strong she is. I think this is true in life—the tough things we go through can shatter us or strengthen us. Sometimes a bit of both.

Find FLASHFALL on Goodreads