Interview with Carrie Allen, Author of Michigan Vs. The Boys

Hey, everyone! Today I am extremely excited to be hosting an interview with Carrie Allen, the author of Michigan Vs. The Boys. I read Michigan Vs. The Boys in May and I loved it! It was amazing to see another book with girls in sports because there are so few and the book overall was super inspiring!
Here’s a little bit about the book:

Michigan Vs. The Boys | Carrie Allen

Published October 1st, 2019

304 Pages | ebook

Content Warnings: bullying, attempted sexual assault, use of date rape drugs

Michigan Manning’s whole life is hockey. This is her team’s year, she knows it. But budget cuts at her school are keeping the girl’s hockey team away from the ice. Her team won’t be playing this year.
Determined to play hockey no matter what it takes, Michigan tries out for the boy’s hockey team. Even though the boys are just about the opposite of thrilled to have a girl on their team, Michigan is determined to play hockey, through whatever they throw at her. After all, this is the year that colleges are taking note.
But one ‘prank’ on Michigan crosses the line to assault and she has to decide whether she wants to risk hockey in order to speak up.

All summaries are my own unless otherwise stated. Parts of the summary may be borrowed from goodreads.

When did you first decide you wanted to be an author?

I started writing in elementary school– my first books were written on binder paper, trimmed and stapled to resemble “real” books. I always had an urge to write, and to read, but high school English classes chased me away to the sciences. After college and grad school, I had trouble finding books I connected with, and I hadn’t written in years. Until one day, I was traveling with the collegiate volleyball team I worked with, and we’re all lounging on the nasty airport floor waiting for a flight. Our outside hitter said, “Carrie, you HAVE to read this!” and passed me a copy of a book with a pair of hands holding a red apple on the front. And wow—there was suddenly this whole shelf of books that I hadn’t been reading because I was supposed to be A Grown Up. Then, when I semi-retired from sports medicine to stay home with my first baby (who is about to turn ten!) I binged the Hunger Games trilogy. As soon as I finished the last page of Mockingjay, I turned back to the first page of Hunger Games and binged the whole series again. As soon as I finished it the second time, I started writing my first manuscript (the first of a terrible, terrible dystopian trilogy that we will not discuss further.)

What inspired you to write Michigan Vs. The Boys? How did you first come up with the idea?

Michigan Vs. The Boys is actually my second hockey manuscript. The first was about a girl who spent her whole childhood playing on a boys’ hockey team, and when she’s invited to a USAH development camp, she has to transition to playing on a girls’ team. It was super fun to write, but as soon as I finished it, I knew I had to write the harder story—for the girls who didn’t get to have my MC’s positive experiences. I love hockey and I want my sport to be the best it can be, on and off the ice. In writing Michigan, I wanted to support the athletes while shining a light on the work that still needs to be done.

What are some things that you hoped to accomplish by releasing Michigan Vs. into the world?
Why do you think that it is important that there be more books like yours published?

My first goal with Michigan was to support the athletes like Michigan, because I’ve been there. I’ve been the only girl in the room or on the ice, and I’ve faced things I shouldn’t have had to. Every girl in hockey has; most girls in sports have. But I also saw a need for books like Michigan—the gatekeepers in publishing haven’t let a lot of sports-centered books through. There are so many real life Michigans, and I want them to see themselves represented on the bookshelves, to have their stories told. 

But I also wrote Michigan for the readers who don’t follow sports, readers who don’t think they like sports. I can’t blame them—mainstream sports media isn’t really my jam either. Women receive only 4% of sport media coverage. Four percent! You really have to work to find the sports that I follow, which means there are so many amazing athletes whose stories we never get to hear! Not only that, but women in sports and YA fiction have a lot more in common than readers might realize—starting with the fact that many women in sports ARE young adults! I know YA readers would love these athletes if they could gain more access to them.

What did you learn while writing Michigan Vs. the Boys? How did you grow by writing it?

Michigan was actually an easy book to write– don’t hate me for it, because I’ve had my share of not-easy manuscripts! Because I spent twenty years playing, coaching, reffing, and covering hockey as a Certified Athletic Trainer, I didn’t have to research much. I kept a USA Hockey rulebook nearby to double check facts as needed, and luckily one of my best friends grew up in the U.P. and was able to help me with the setting. 

I grew by writing Michigan because it was brutal to put her through the trials that I did. Those were both some of the hardest and easiest scenes to write. They’d flow easily from me, but leave me emotionally wrecked. I just kept picturing the lone girl at so many rinks across the country and thinking, “I’m doing this for you!”

What sorts of books would you like to see published in the future (plots, rep, etc.)?

Oh, wow, we need more sports books like you wouldn’t believe! We need joyful books and books about the problems in sports and books about team dynamics and individual athletes and non-traditional sports and trans athletes and queer athletes and racism in sports and body positivity and toxic femininity and sports journalists and non-American sport settings and Paralympic athletes and recreational athletes and Olympic athletes and everything in between! It never ceases to amaze me that approximately half of all high school students are athletes, but YA sports books take up only a teeny tiny sliver of the bookshelves. Sports are so much more than a sixty-minute game or seven innings or one hundred meters, and I’d love for YA readers to be able to connect to the athletes and experience the whole story.

What is one or more things that helped keep you going when you were stuck with writing this book? This can be a specific food, a pet, family member, hobby, etc.

My number one way to get unstuck is to walk the dog—literally. I actually thanked my dog Ivy in Michigan’s acknowledgements, because our early morning rambles were how I fixed all of Michigan’s sticky spots! Now I take my cattle dog mix, Torrey, for walks or runs to mull over ideas I want to explore or to imagine my characters. Dogs are awesome– they never look at you weird when you’re dictating out-of-breath notes about imaginary people while hoofing it up a hill.

There’s a scene in Michigan vs. The Boys where Mich goes for a run and she’s feeling isolated and lonely, so to push herself, she pictures her former teammates running with their teams, or Jack training in the pool by himself. She feels less lonely knowing that somewhere out there, someone else is training, too. I feel that a lot when I’m writing. Somewhere out there is an athlete who needs my book, and that gets me working.But also, tea and peanut butter M&Ms 😊

And finally, what advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Write for you first. Write your passion, write the book you want to read. I’ve written probably twenty novels and short stories. Even if I’m incredibly lucky, I’ll still only get to share a small percentage of my work with the world. But each one of those stories has meant something to me, and that’s what gets me working on the next one.

The other advice is to find your people. It is scary and hard to make friends in the book world, but it’s also much easier to create when you’ve got people who believe in you. And critiquing for friends is the best way to learn to write and revise. Publishing is a team sport!

I loved conducting this interview with Carrie. She was a delight to talk to and I think that all her answers are so thoughtful and amazing. As most of you probably know, I play softball so books with girls in sports are really inspiring to me and I definitely agree that we need more! The book community is a lot better because of Carrie’s book and I hope that more authors or aspiring authors will find her book and decide to write one of their own sports books.

What’d you think of this interview? Have you read Michigan Vs. The Boys by Carrie Allen? Do you play any sports?
As always, thank you so much for stopping by to read–it means the world! Please, stay safe and keep on reading!

Author Interview with Maggie Tokuda Hall, Author of ‘The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea’

Hey everyone! I know I usually post on Sundays (and the occasional wednesday/thursday when it’s the end of the month) but you’ll have to forgive me for being a bit late as I was celebrating Easter with my family yesterday (and I’m terrified of scheduling posts because I feel like I’m going to mess everything up).
I am so excited today to be hosting an author interview with Maggie Tokuda Hall, the author of ‘The Mermaid the Witch and the Sea.’
I read ‘The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea’ in January and thought it was a really interesting book! MWS is an adventure fantasy and while it does follow a lot of the same paths as an adventure fantasy usually does, there are a lot of factors that make it a super interesting read! It was especially interesting how it was sort of split into three different sections, each with a sub plot in them–the mermaid, the witch, and the sea.
Now, let’s get right into this interview! I hope that you enjoy!

  1. When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?

I always loved telling stories, but when I was a teen and a college student, I thought of myself as a visual arts person. It was in pursuit of my BA in Studio Art that I realized what I really loved was narrative, and that my greater ability to achieve the stories I wanted to communicate was through writing, and often with the interplay of text and image.

2. How did you come up with the idea for The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea?

This book is written for one person in particular, a young woman named Clare. I met her when she was 9 years old and I worked in a bookstore. She was this shockingly bright, voracious reader, and when she was 10 or 11 her parents hired me to be her creative writing tutor. In the time I spent mentoring her it became clear that– at the time– there weren’t many stories that she liked best, with magic and murder and rules and kissing, that centered queer kids. So I sat down with the idea that I would write her that book. She’s 22 now, so I missed being able to hand it to teenaged Clare, but I got to hand it to her as an adult, and it felt like my own coming of age moment. It’s very emotional for me, realizing that in trying to create a coming of age story for her, by the strength of her character and her imagination and her joyful queerness, she created a coming of age moment for me, too.

3. What inspired you to write this book, especially when you were stuck?

I started this book when Clare was 13. It came out when she was 21. I got stuck a lot. I spent more time stuck than writing. My biggest problem was that I kept rewriting the beginning thinking, erroneously, that if I could just write the perfect beginning then it would lead me to a perfect middle and end. What I was learning the hard way was that, no matter how good a beginning is, it’s nothing until it has an ending to answer it. The thing that ended up getting me to finish a first draft (most of which is gone now, it’s worth noting) was NaNoWriMo 2016.

4. Is there anything you hoped to accomplish by sharing this book with the world? 

I just wanted Clare to like the book. That was the number one, only and most important goal. She liked it, thank god, but everything that has come after that has been just bonuses for me. The most meaningful emails I get are from kids who have come out as gender fluid after reading it. That they found permission or solidarity or reflection on their own identity that moved them in a step to being their truer selves– I can’t imagine anything else as meaningful as that to me. 

5. What did you learn while writing MWS? How did you grow as an author while writing it?

Oh gosh. I learned so much, and I do really believe that writing your way through it is the only way to learn to be a writer. It’s reps, it’s just like sports that way. You can practice and practice and practice (and you have to practice and practice and practice and practice) but you also need to play a game, to finish the thing. You need more seemingly infinitely more practice than you do game time, but that game time is what really gives you confidence. At least, that was what I found for myself. The more I practice the more I trust my own decisions, the less time I spend fiddling about with things that can be fixed in the next draft, or projects that aren’t right yet. I only let myself write forward now, and that’s served me so so well. I’ve also learned to get comfortable (even delighted) by deleting things. I don’t save any of my own writing anymore, no projects I didn’t finish, no character sketches. I force myself to write from scratch every time because I’ve learned now that every time I write I get better. So why not work with the best I have to offer?

6. MWS is your YA debut. What made you decide to write a YA book instead of sticking with what you usually write?

I usually write YA. I have a few picture books– one out and a couple on the way, and some short stories and essays for adults. But YA is my favorite genre to write. I have a YA graphic novel out in October 2021 called Squad (about teenaged girls who turn into werewolves at the full moon and eat sex pests) illustrated by Lisa Sterle. There will be a sequel to MWS, and another YA graphic novel in the time after that. And I hope much more YA after those, too.

7. What is some advice you have for aspiring authors?

Free advice is worth every penny. But that doesn’t necessarily mean advice you paid for will work for you, either. You never know who’s advice will be the thought technology that cracks open accomplishment for you, and I won’t pretend to offer it. I can tell you what worked best for me, but I’ll tell you that when I say these things on panels much more experienced and accomplished authors break into a cold and horrified sweat when I say I don’t save anything, or that I delete everything. Or that I believe that often, that slog I feel with a story, is permission to abandon it.

Well, that’s it for the post, everyone! I really hope that you enjoyed it and it was super fun to conduct this interview! I thought it was so meaningful to hear of Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s journey through writing this book to get it out to Clare and I’m so happy that it’s a book now!

What did you think of this interview? Have you read The Mermaid, The Witch and the Sea? Do you want to? Please, talk to me in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think!
Thank you so much for stopping by to read this post and as always, stay safe and keep reading!

Interview with TJ Klune, author of The Extraordinaries

My second book interview has finally arrived! I’m really excited for this one. I read “The Extraordinaries” a few months ago and loved it. This is, quite possibly, the funniest book I’ve ever read. I was literally laughing every single page.

Here’s a little more about the book:
Author: TJ Klune
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQIAP+,
Age suggestion (my opinion): 14+
Series: “The Extraordinaries” (3 books)
Other: “The Extraordinaries” is author TJ Klune’s YA debut. Book two comes out July 20, 2021

Unfortunately I did not have time to write a review of “The Extraordinaries”. Fortunately, you can read my (very short) goodreads review here and you can find the synopsis on goodreads here.

Anyways, why am I wasting your time by talking? Here’s the interview with TJ Klune about his YA debut “The Extraordinaries”!

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to become an author?  
A: When I was a kid! I carried around this notebook, filling it with stories I’d think up off the top of my head. They obviously weren’t very good (I started when I was six or seven), but even back then, I was already thinking about writing, and what I wanted to do with it. When I was in seventh grade, I had two amazing teachers who really pushed me to continue writing, and I’ve never forgotten their faith in me.

Q: The Extraordinaries is your YA debut. What made you decide to write a YA book and this book in particular?
A: I’d always been thinking about wanting to write a superhero book, given that I’m a huge nerd when it comes to comic books. It was nebulous, this thought, as story ideas sometimes are, but then I was talking with a friend and complaining about proper neurodiversity representation in fiction. I have ADHD, and it’s still so hard to find characters written by authors who either a) are neurodiverse themselves or b) actually do the research into what it means to have ADHD.
It kind of coalesced from there, and I knew I wanted to write about a sixteen year old kid with ADHD and his head stuck in the clouds, given his obsession with the superheroes in his city. This book was to give people like my–the neurodiverse–someone to root for, someone who thinks and talks and acts like they do, so they could see themselves in fiction. When I was sixteen, I didn’t have that kind of rep, or good and honest queer representation. While the latter has gotten much better as we near the end of 2020, I think we still have a ways to go before we’re there.

Q: Are any of the characters from The Extraordinaries based off of anyone?
A: Not really! I think it’s fair to say that authors pluck bits and pieces from authors (and themselves) and put that into the characters and/or stories that they right, and I certainly can say I do the same. But specific people with specific traits that’s a one-to-one representation of them? I try to avoid that. It feels…I don’t know. Weirdly invasive, but that’s just me.

Q: What did you learn while writing The Extraordinaries? How did you grow as an author and a person while writing it?
A: The best thing l learned was from all the research I had to do on fandom and fan fiction. A big part of The Extraordinaries is that Nick Bell, the main character, is the most popular writer in the Extraordinaries fandom. He writes barely-disguised self-insert fanfiction about the superhero he has a crush on.
Fan fiction gets such an undeserved bad rap. There’s a negative connotation behind it, suggesting that everything people write in fandoms is juvenile. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Is there bad fanfiction? Yes. But then there are bad books that are published by major publishers.
The biggest thing I learned is how fandom is a safe place for marginalized groups, many of whom are queer people who don’t get to see themselves in the canon books/movies/tv/whatever their writing about. So they write the stories 
they want to see. In addition to giving them the rep they deserve, fanfiction can also be a place where writers can figure out how to hone their creative voice. In researching the Extraordinaries, I read some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and it was in fanfiction.

Q: What was something or some things that helped you get through writing this book–a food, pet, advice, something else?
A: My dog helps quite a bit. When I’m stuck and facing writer’s block, or I’m not sure about what needs to happen next in a story, I’ll take Hendrix on a long walk through our neighborhood or at the park, and it allows me to have time away from a word document, to be able to clear my head and regain my focus.

Q: What can we expect from book two, Flash Fire? (No spoilers please)
A: Flash Fire is going to continue threads that started in the Extraordinaries, and will open up the world a bit. The Extraordinaries was always meant to feel a bit insular, with Nick’s extreme focus on trying to become a superhero. With the sequel, we see other Extraordinaries, and Nick and Seth and Jazz and Gibby will have to contend with what that means for them, their families, and Nova City. It’s bigger, badder, sexier (ish–Nick is still sort of a prude), and I’m so excited for people to see what comes next.

Q: What is some advice you have for aspiring authors?
A: One thing that bugs the crap out of me is when I here authors telling others that a “real” author writes every day. This is terrible advice. While some can write everyday, I’m not one of them. It’s important to learn your limits, and to accept the fact that some days, the words just won’t come. Though far and few between, those days can be rough, especially if you force yourself to try and write through it. You’ll only end up frustrating yourself, and could potentially lose sight of why you’re telling the story you are. If you do hit one of those walls, for the love of all that’s holy, take a damn break! It could be for an hour or a day or a week or a month, but don’t force it because the story won’t be like you want it to. If I ever hit those blocks and it looks like it’ll last a little longer than a day, I try and work on something else, to move my focus. Nine times out of ten, when I come back to the story that was giving me issues, I’ll see right away where I went wrong, and how to fix it.

Alright that’s the interview! I hope you enjoyed!

What did you think of this post? Have you read The Extraordinaries? Do you want to read the Extraordinaries? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Interview with Rosiee Thor, author of Tarnished are the Stars

This is my first author interview! I very recently did a book review of “Tarnished are the Stars,” which you can find here. The author of this book has agreed to do an interview with me as well! I hope you enjoy:

Q: When did you first decide you wanted to become a writer? 

A: I’ve always liked telling stories. I used to tell my mom bedtime stories when I was little, so it was never a question of wanting to be a storyteller or not, but I do remember the moment I realized that “author” was a job and it was something I could do. I was probably about twelve or thirteen, and I found the blog of–at the time unpublished–Marie Lu. She had all these blog posts and tutorials about how to get a literary agent and her progress on her books and I remember thinking wow, so that’s a thing people actually do. Before that, I always thought authors were sort of mythical like it wasn’t something real people became, but here was this person (pretty yount at the time, herself) who was doing the thing and succeeding! That was the first time I put the pieces together and realized it was something I could really pursue.Tarnished are the Stars is such a unique book, very different from anything I’ve ever read. How did you come up with the idea? If I’m being honest, the answer here is that I don’t really remember. I was in college and I was trying to convince my writing professor to let me write a novel for some writing 400 level credits. I put together a whole proposal with essentially a lesson plan for myself and goalposts for writing the book and it was perhaps the most extra thing I’ve ever done. Part of that was showing her I had an idea for a book that was worth writing and that I had a plan for it and thus… Tarnished was born. It looked a lot different back then (hardly anything was the same, honestly, not even the title) and it was a mishmash of genres and themes I thought might be marketable at the time. I didn’t get to do the independent study course, but I did write the book, and as I wrote it, the themes and elements changed to match up with things I was interested in exploring. 

Q: Are your characters based off of anyone? (Anna, Eliza, Nathaniel, anyone else?)

A: They’re not really based on anyone as a whole. There are little things that I gave each character from within myself, but it sounds terrible if I say they’re based on me haha! But it’s true–Anna is angry at systems of government, like me; Eliza is analytical and a little flamboyant, like me; and Nathaniel is on a journey to self acceptance and found family, like me as I was working on the book. I didn’t do any of this on purpose, but I think it’s the symptom of writing a book while you’re going through a big change personally. There are always pieces of ourselves that slip into the stories we tell.

Q: What did you learn while writing Tarnished? How did you grow as an author and a person while writing it?

A: Phew! Well, I learned a lot, especially about myself. When I started writing Tarnished, I thought I was 100% totally straight. I didn’t think there was an alternative other than 100% totally gay. And what a world of different identities are out there!! Writing Tarnished forced me to confront my own identity, but also joining the writing community online opened me up to so many words for identities I didn’t know existed. I found my own labels in much the same way that Nathaniel does in the book, and I’ll always be grateful that I got to go through that experience at the same time as my fictional character.

Q: What inspired you to write this book? Is there anything that you hoped to accomplish by sharing this book with the world?

A: I had a lot of intentions with Tarnished–I wanted to explore questions about identity, friendship, healthcare, corruption, environmentalism etc. I didn’t want to say just one thing, and I wanted to question more than I wanted to say. I always enjoy when books make me think about my preconceptions or assumptions and force me to examine them myself. I wanted people to walk away from Tarnished questioning the role of government and healthcare, questioning the limitations of gatekeeping identities, and hopefully questioning what the future might look like and how we can actually shape that rather than wait for it to arrive.

Q: What was something that helped you get through writing this book–a specific food, a pet, anything that helped?

A: I’ll be honest… I’m not necessarily the healthiest about my work/life balance when it comes to writing. I’m very Capricorn about it all–I make a plan, and then I execute it. I’m not particularly kind to myself about my deadlines, and I tend to overwork myself pretty badly. It’s not a good thing and it’s something I’m working on personally. What got me through writing this book were the people in my life who supported me through it and took care of me when I wasn’t taking care of myself. Writing a book is stressful, and I’m working on catastrophizing it less and finding healthier writing habits, but in the meantime I’m enormously grateful to the people who believed in me and reminded me to do important things like eat meals and sleep.

Q: What is some advice that you wish to share with aspiring authors?

A: Advice is a weird thing–I’ve gotten a lot of it over the years and most of it has been pretty hit or miss. My advice is a little meta but… don’t take all advice. Not everything will work for every author. If advice works for you, great! Take it! But don’t feel like you have to take on every piece of advice you hear. A lot of it will be contradictory or for very specific situations. Basically, advice isn’t one-size-fits-all and it will serve you well to find what works for you and roll with that. 

Q: You went through pitchwars with this book. What was that like and is there anything you want to tell people who are preparing to submit their manuscripts for this year’s pitchwars?

A: PitchWars was the most stressful experience of my life. When I talk about times of writing stress or killer deadlines, I’m talking about my time in PitchWars. It was an incredibly valuable experience and I learned a lot, but I also sacrificed my personal health to meet an arbitrary deadline that in the long run didn’t end up mattering. So here’s my advice to anyone submitting to PitchWars: PitchWars is just one way to get into publishing. Most people–even PW alums–get their agents by regular old querying. If you don’t get in, that doesn’t mean you won’t get an agent or a book deal. If you do get in, it doesn’t mean you will. Take PitchWars as a way to grow as a writer and to find a community, but remember that publishing is a long road and PitchWars might just be one step of many. It’s just one opportunity. There will be others. Whether you get accepted or rejected, be kind to yourself!

What did you think of this interview? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read Tarnished are the Stars? Tell me what you think in the comments!