Jordan Harper on the Importance of Punching Back

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Working as an in-demand screenwriter has made Jordan Harper no stranger to writing an action-packed story, which certainly comes across in his debut novel, She Rides Shotgun. It’s a gritty, emotional, and grippingly terrifying thrill-ride about the fine line between being bad and being good. We caught up with Harper recently to talk about the draw of the powerful young girl character, the difference between writing for the page and writing for the screen, and about why he believes the perfect response to being punched is to punch back.

Bookish: She Rides Shotgun puts the reader right alongside Nate, as though we are a part of him, running for our lives. We’re in Nate’s head as much as we can be but there’s only so much we can know given the third person narration. What else do you want readers to know about Nate McCluskey?

Jordan Harper: My first draft of the novel was written much more from Nate’s point of view than Polly’s. It’s really more Polly’s story than his so I’m glad I made the switch, but there’s a lot of Nate on the cutting room floor, particularly his relationship with his brother Nick, and how that blend of toxic masculinity and bravado gets passed on generation to generation.  There was even a brief explanation of how white trash hill people (my people) spread from the east coast to the Ozarks and then to California. Which is probably a bit much, so it’s better on the floor than in the book.

Bookish: Polly is a remarkable character. In many ways, she’s old beyond her years and yet she is still very much a child. At the end of the first part, she cuts off her hair and dyes it red, an action both literal and symbolic of her change. There seems to be a trend with these powerful, dangerous young girls in pop culture (Eleven in Stranger Things, for example). Why do you think such characterizations are growing in popularity?

JH: On one hand, this isn’t new. Polly springs from a mini-genre, the crook and child on the road, that has a long tradition of very strong little girls: Mattie Ross in True Grit, Addie in Paper Moon, Natalie Portman’s character in The Professional. But the current vogue springs from the fact that when a vacuum is filled, it is filled rapidly. People are hungry for girls in crime fiction who aren’t victims or props. I’m not the first to say that the majority of interesting crime fiction these days features and/or is written by women.

Bookish: The relationship between Nate and Polly goes from basically non-existent to survival mode, to mentorship, and finally to something close to father and daughter (or maybe as close as they can be). Polly goes from being rigid with fear to strong and powerful. In their case, violence is a learned behavior but rage seems to be inherited. Why?

JH: The answer to this is buried in the scene in which Nate teaches Polly how to take a punch, and it is my inner anarchist’s response to anxiety (which plagues both Polly and Nate). I think that anxiety is a natural response to the modern world, a world that teaches you not to fight back, a world that does violence to you daily in a million different ways and expects you not to punch back. Polly does no violence to anything but herself at the beginning of the book, which is why her fight-or-flight instinct jams her up so often. Nate teaches her that the correct response to being punched is to punch back, which is a radical thought these days.

Bookish: Let’s talk about place. California is supposed to be the land of dreams fulfilled, fruit, honey, and beautiful people, right? But here you show us the underbelly. What drew you to California as a setting?

JH: I moved to LA almost a decade ago, and I love it deeply. There was never any question about where to set the novel. While a few of the places in the novel are fictional, every location is at least based on real places that I drove to while writing the book. I write best about places that I physically go to. So since this is my home, it made for a natural location.

In some ways, California is it’s own country, but it’s also the most American place, with its worship of cars, its dirt, its dedication to a dream that’s only achieved by a very few. I also love that here in LA you can drive from the Pacific Ocean to the desert madness of the Salton Sea in half a day.

Bookish: She Rides Shotgun is your first published novel. What was the experience like for you and how was it different from writing screenplays?

JH:  It was fiendishly difficult, a nearly three-year process. Writing a novel has made writing for television seem very simple and quick. A novel has so many more moving parts.

Bookish: The movie rights to She Rides Shotgun have already been sold, and you’re working on the adaptation. How’s that going?

JH:  I just turned in a draft to the producers, so I’ll know better how it’s going when I hear back from them.

Bookish: What are the pros and cons to adapting your own work?

JH: While I’m happy with what I’m done, and I’m very excited to be working with the producers I’m working with, I’m not sure I’d tell other authors to attempt adapting themselves. Maybe you shouldn’t adapt yourself for the same reason that you shouldn’t operate on yourself: You need to make deep cuts without pain. But it’s a great honor to take a crack at it, and put these characters on the big screen.

Bookish: I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Polly. Any plans for a sequel?

JH: I’ve toyed with an idea for bringing Polly back, but not in my next novel. I’ve been wrestling with a new idea based on a murder that took place in my high school when I was a senior, but it’s been rough going. I’ve also got an idea for a modern-day Bonnie-and-Clyde murder mystery that I’ve been excited about for a while. So we’ll see.

Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He has been a music journalist, film critic, and TV writer. He is the author of the short story collection, Love and Other Wounds. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Conversation and Connection: Will Schwalbe on the Gifts Books Give Us

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Will Schwalbe is a true literature lover if ever there was one. Books for Living, his latest, offers the reader a list of life-changing books. We caught up with Schwalbe this April at the Newburyport Literary Festival to talk about some of the titles he chose to feature, the necessity of letting people love the books they love, and, most importantly, to hear his surefire suggestions for how to get a reluctant reader to pick up a book.

Bookish: Let’s start off with your favorite question. What are you reading?

Will Schwalbe: At the moment, I’m reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, which is a marvelous literary novel that starts in Korea with a young woman who marries a Christian minister. Where I left off, they are heading off to Osaka, and I’m so excited to get back to it. It’s really tremendous.

I’ve read some wonderful books recently. I’ve loved Hourglass by Dani Shapiro. It’s a memoir of her marriage and it is the most frank memoir of an ongoing marriage that I’ve ever read. Another I finished recently was Setting Free the Kites by Alex George, which is set in Maine. It’s about the friendship of two boys. It’s a very original voice but in some ways reminded me of John Irving.

Bookish: The life-changing titles you list within Books for Living are diverse in terms of genre and publication date. Are there any you regret not including?

WS: I’m a big overwriter. It’s quite a slender volume, and I cut dozens of books and have tons of regrets. I would’ve loved to have written about Stoner by John Edward Williams, Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe, and Night by Elie Wiesel. I wrote chapters about all of these and more. I wrote about Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. But I had to whittle it down to these 26. I wanted 26 because, if someone chose to do so, I wanted to make it a year of reading—a book every two weeks for a year.

I had certain themes and genres that I wanted to cover because I really wanted to show that there are great things we learn from all different kinds of books. There are young adult, middle grade, and picture books. There are classics like The Odyssey. There are thrillers like The Girl on the Train and cookbooks like The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis. Everywhere I go I talk to people about the books that shaped their lives, and it’s such a wonderfully diverse group of titles. I wanted to reflect that. I didn’t want it to be a list of titles that had been anointed great books. I think a great book is a book that is great for you.

Bookish: E.B. White’s Stuart Little was one of your choices. Are there other authors who are considered to write primarily for children that you would suggest adults seek out?

WS: One of the middle grade books I loved writing about was R. J. Palacio’s Wonder. It’s the story of a boy with a facial deformity who is going to school for the first time. It has the most marvelous message, which is not just to choose kindness but choose to be more kind than necessary. I don’t know anybody who couldn’t gain from reading this. The characters are vivid, and it’s a wonderful, surprising story. A book for everybody.

I also have a chapter about a picture book, More, More, More, Said the Baby by Vera Williams. Picture books are so delightful for readers of all ages. If you revisit them as an adult when you’re not reading them to a child, you see the artistry that goes into the text and images. The great ones are really works of art.

Bookish: What is it about certain books that make people connect to them so intimately that they feel the compulsion to have others share that reading experience with them?

WS: There are two kinds of people in the world. One I call publishers and the other I call privaters. Publishers just want everyone to share their enthusiasm. Privaters like to keep their enthusiasms to themselves. If you are by nature a publisher, whether it’s a book, a movie, a food you had at a restaurant, or a part of the country, you want to share. Even among publishers, there are certain books that just demand to be shared. Those are the ones where you really want to talk about them with your friends. It’s not just that you want your friends to read them, but you want to talk about them.

For example, I write about A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s an extraordinary read. It’s very powerful, and in many ways very upsetting. It’s one of the most beautiful books about friendship that I’ve ever read. So you want your friends to read it because it gives you such a powerful lens into friendship and a kind of language for discussing friendship. Some books speak very quietly to your soul, but some demand that you share them.

Bookish: Is it possible to love someone who doesn’t love your favorite book?

WS: Oh, yes, absolutely. I am a big believer that people absorb information in all different ways. Some people are auditory and music is their life. Some people are really primarily visual and can spend endless hours in art museums and love movies. Some people like stories and some don’t, some like to read and some don’t. I love book people. I’m delighted to find them. They are my tribe. I love to share books. Yet some of my favorite people not only haven’t read my favorites, they don’t really read at all, and that’s fine. I never want books to feel like a cudgel that you’ve got to beat people with for either not sharing your opinion or for not reading. That’s not the intent.

Bookish: Do you have any books that you loved when you were younger and went back to read when you were older and they didn’t hold up? Or maybe you loved the book for a different reason when reading it again?

WS: There are books that I had the most marvelous experience with. I don’t know if they would hold up, and so I’m not going to test it. I loved Alistair Maclean, who wrote these incredibly, hairy-chested adventure stories: Guns of Navarone, Force 10 from Navarone, and Where Eagles Dare. They probably do hold up, but I have such incredibly vivid memories of devouring them that I don’t even want to reread them. I like those memories pure. If there was a book that I loved and I started to reread it and it wasn’t holding up, I would simply put it away. If I loved it, I don’t want to mess with that. Nor do I really want anyone else’s opinions of it. If I loved it and you didn’t, that’s great. Good for you. I don’t care. You’re not going to convince me to love it less.

On the flip side, there are books that really reveal themselves to you over time. That for me is especially true of reading poetry. There are poems that I’ve loved all my life. When I go back and read them, I love them more and more every time. There are also books where you know you’re going to love them, but it’s not the right time in your life for them. Everyone has always told me that I’ll love Anthony Trollope. I’m sure I will love Trollope but not yet.

Bookish: Do you have any tips for getting younger reluctant readers to pick up a book?

WS: Nothing made me read a book faster than my parents discouraging me from reading it. Fear of Flying came out, and they said, “This is too old for you.” So I thought, I’m reading it. Parents often ask me what to do if their child doesn’t like to read, and I’ll recommend that they buy a certain book, and I offer to write their child’s name in it and under that I write, “This is a book of which your parents won’t approve.”

Bookish: The End of Your Life Book Club touches me deeply for many reasons, but primarily because I am a mother who shares a love of reading with her son. What is a book you think that is perfect for a parent and child to read together?

WS: There are so many extraordinary books for a parent and child to read together. It’s really the experience of talking about it with the parent that is so special. I used to think books were the greatest gift you could ever give anyone, but I don’t think that anymore. I now think they are the second greatest gift, because the greatest gift is the conversation you have about a book that you love. I also think that there’s something extraordinary about parents who are reading what their children want them to read. There’s something really powerful about parents who follow their child’s instinct and interests and passions. Sometimes parents present their favorite books from their childhood to children, and it just may not speak to that child. Reading the the books that your kids love is a great thing.

I tell the story of a grandmother who was sad because she used to have these great conversations with her grandson and they became monosyllabic. At some point she asked him what he was reading, and he said The Hunger Games. So she read The Hunger Games, and then they had something to talk about. The amazing thing about The Hunger Games is, before you know it, you’re talking about the role of media in society, about war, about income inequality. There are some books out now that are amazingly powerful and that can give way to some important conversations.The Hate U Give is one that families should read together. Every family should read that book together. There is so much to talk about there, and it’s a marvelous book.

Now more than ever, we need to read. We need to read really diverse voices which are very different from our own experience, whatever that is and whoever we are. We should seek out writing by people who are very much unlike us and challenge our preconceptions.

Will Schwalbe has worked in publishing; digital media, as the founder and CEO of Cookstr.com; and as a journalist, writing for various publications, including The New York Times and the South China Morning Post. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Your Life Book Club and coauthor, with David Shipley, of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

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Cover Love

We’ve rounded up covers we love, and we hope you will too. We’ve also gathered all of your cover votes from this month, and your most loved cover is…Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp!

Click on each cover to read the full description, request (or wish for) the title, and “Like” the cover if you haven’t already. If you’ve read these titles, don’t forget to share feedback with the publisher and with your friends & followers.

Tell us in the comments below which covers you’re loving right now &
they could be included in next month’s edition!

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Did you miss BookExpo or BookCon? NetGalley’s got you covered!

From June 1-June 4, the Javits Center in New York City served as the temporary home to the publishing world. BookExpo America—the largest trade book fair in the US—and BookCon—an annual convention for book lovers—drew record crowds, and NetGalley was there to meet with publishers and readers like you!

We attend BookExpo and BookCon each year to connect face-to-face with our members and publisher clients to share information about new features on the site and reminders about how to get the most out of your NetGalley account.

This year our team met with publishers big and small to answer questions, hear about their most anticipated new releases, and talk about exciting new changes coming to the site in upcoming months.

From our booth headquarters, we also met with many NetGalley members. During these meetings, members had the chance to ask questions about their accounts, our supported reading devices, and how to best utilize the site for their specific member type and reading preferences.

We also shared a booth with Bookish, our sister company!

Now, back to the books! Whether you attended the festivities in person or spirit, you can still read excerpts from the highly-touted Adult and Young Adult books being published this fall, thanks to Publishers Lunch BUZZ BOOKS. Plus, find the full titles on NetGalley! Just click the covers to download instantly.

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Best American Short Stories’ Heidi Pitlor on What She Looks for in a Guest Editor

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

From our friends at BookishHeidi Pitlor is a bookish jack of all trades: novelist, former editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and current series editor of The Best American Short Stories. We caught up with Pitlor this April at the Newburyport Literary Festival and asked her about upcoming short story trends, technology, and our obsession with domestic thrillers. 

Bookish: You’re the series editor of The Best American Short Stories, and each year you work with a different guest editor. What do you look for in a guest editor?

Heidi Pitlor: I try to find guest editors who are both critically and commercially successful. I also seek a diversity of writers, on every level: content, genre, style, personality, person.

Bookish: If you could pick any author, who would you want to work with next?

HP: Living, dead, anyone? Maybe because I was just reading a piece about him, the first person who comes to mind is James Baldwin. But if we’re sticking to writers who are alive, I’d love to work with Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Donna Tartt, Colson Whitehead. I’ve been absurdly lucky to work alongside the authors who have guest edited the series since I’ve been on board. We only invite American writers or those who live here to guest edit the book, otherwise I’d ask Ian McEwan, Roddy Doyle, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel… I could go on and on.

Bookish: If you could only recommend one short story to our readers, what would it be?

HP: I think I’d have to know the reader first. Fiction is so subjective, as everyone knows. But if I were forced to suggest a few story writers to someone who had never read any American short fiction, I might suggest Sherwood Anderson, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro. Even listing those four was extremely difficult for me, and feels a little like being asked to pick the best person from a large country.

Bookish: Is there anything that you see in short stories that you wish was more present in novels? Or vice versa?

HP: That is so interesting and hard to answer. I guess that in literary stories and novels, and this is a vast and silly generalization, but I’d like to see a greater focus on momentum and conflict. It’s easy for writers to get caught up in words and language, and forget about story.

In some ways, stories and novels aren’t that different. They’re different to write, of course, but when I’m judging writing I’m in the same place in my head: I’m either engaged or I’m not. I want to keep turning pages or I don’t. One of the biggest gifts a writer can give a reader is to place a question at the beginning of the story or novel, a question that is only answerable by reading the pages that follow.

Also, I beat this drum all the time, I would love to see more humor. Comedy typically is associated with light fare, but I crave meaningful, deftly written, intelligent humor. Satire, weirdness, surprise.

Bookish: What new trends or themes do you expect readers to see in the future?

HP: More and more people are writing about technology. If I read anything set in the present day that has no mention of anything technological, I am suspicious. It’s hard for me to gauge future trends right now because, since last fall, everything in country has been up in the air. I’m waiting to see what trends and themes will emerge from this moment in history. Right now there’s just a lot of trepidation in the part of fiction writers, readers, publishers. (Nonfiction might have more solid ground.) That said, we might see themes of social justice and inequality creep into fiction. I do expect more writers to explore the impacts of technology.

Bookish: That’s a tough balance to strike. How do you keep up with the times when technology is changing so rapidly? In the time it takes to write, edit, and publish a book your references may already be dated.

HP: It’s tricky. But this is the world where we live right now. I’m always excited when I read a story that makes me think deeply about it or utilizes it in a way that’s artistic and organic. In some ways, it’s important as a writer to focus more on the writing and characters and their truth than on whether your references feel dated. To my mind, it’s not the rapidly changing technology or cultural references that will feel dated in the future as much as certain attitudes. For example, sexism, racism and xenophobia, no matter how subtle (the Chinese launderer, the Indian grocer, the frumpy mom, the ditzy teenage girl) date a work of fiction far more than anything else.

Bookish: When you aren’t compiling newest volume of Best American Short Stories, you’re writing novels. You mentioned earlier that writers offer a question at the beginning of a book that readers are compelled to find the answer to. In your second novel, The Daylight Marriage, a woman goes missing. The obvious question is: What happened to her? But did you have another question in mind when you wrote it?

HP: Yes–I wanted to explore the culpability of Lovell, the husband. Even if he’s not culpable in one way, is he in another sense? Where do we drawn our lines of culpability? To me, that is the most interesting question because there is no clear answer. As a writer, it’s always more interesting to set yourself a question without a yes or no answer.

Bookish: Hannah’s husband Lovell is a scientist, and in the novel you create a strong connection between science (and those small variables that can enact great change) and Hannah’s disappearance. Why did you choose to weave these two elements together?

HP: Lovell is a regimented thinker, a climate scientist driven primarily by physical proof rather than emotion. I wanted to push him into a realm where he was forced to rely on his own intuition and emotion, where physical evidence came not from his own work but someone else’s, in this case, the police. The novel is set during a time when many in government questioned the existence of climate change (this moment has unfortunately returned). Scientists were trying to prove the existence of global warming, as well as the fact that humans were at least partly to blame. The latter is infinitely difficult to prove, far more than it sounds. There are endless variables, and so we must rely on data drawn from correlative studies rather than directly causal data. Lovell is faced with a similar predicament after his wife disappears. And the more he thinks about what happened to her, the less he understands.

Bookish: Readers continue to be fascinated by novels that explore the things a character doesn’t know about his or her spouse. Why do you think we’re drawn to these stories?

HP: I started this novel right around the time of a high-profile murder in my town, a case involving a young husband and wife. I was fascinated by my own endless fascination with these people I had never known. So many of us are voyeurs. Writing fiction is a form of voyeurism. Marriage is often a closed room to everyone but the spouses. Fiction gives us the chance to explore these closed rooms, and if the spouses are closed off to each other? Even better for a reader.

I think that schadenfreude comes into play as well; we are glad to learn that a perfect-seeming couple is, in fact, anything but perfect. Not that my characters are perfect by any stretch, although they might look that way on first blush.

Bookish: You’ve said that Hannah’s thread in the novel went mostly unchanged during the editing process. What was it about her story or character that you felt you nailed the first time around?

HP: Hannah was very clear to me from the beginning. I understood her sense of lost promise. She was someone who was set on a rather charmed path as a child, and a few things happened that bumped her off. Her life became, well, normal. Most lives do. That’s part of growing up. But there’s a loneliness and isolation to young motherhood that can exacerbate a sense of lost promise. I began with a very simple dialogue between Hannah and a man that she meets at a time when her desires are extraordinarily raw and available. He can see them and easily manipulate her, and this dialogue became the backbone for the rest of the book.

Bookish: Are you working on another novel now? Can you tell us anything about it?

HP: I am working on my third novel. one about motherhood and specifically mothering a boy in modern society, and a bit about publishing. It’s satirical, so it’s a departure for me. It’s difficult at least for me to write about the world directly right now, so writing satirically feels just right.

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage. A former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, she has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Her writing has been published in Ploughshares, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers, and elsewhere. She currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Regis University in Denver. She lives with her twin daughter and son and her husband outside Boston.

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Bookish’s Must-Read Books of Summer 2017

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Your vacation plans are booked, your bags are packed, and now all you need is the perfect book. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up this summer’s best new releases. Whether you’re craving a gripping mystery, a heart-stopping romance, or a fascinating look at history, we’ve got you covered. We’re recommending nearly 100 books this season, so you’d better get reading. The summer won’t last forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NetGalley Author Interview: Benjamin Ludwig

Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Benjamin Ludwig,” now! Here, we talk about his debut release, Ginny Moon, how his daughter was a big inspiration for the book and what Ludwig wants to write next! You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and BookTrib.com.

Ginny Moon

Request It!

Pub Date: May 2, 2017
General Fiction (Adult)
Published by Harlequin

See More of Their Titles

See the world differently.

Ginny Moon is a recently adopted teenager with autism. She has a new home, new parents, and a new last name.

Before Ginny arrived at her new house, she spent years living in danger with her birth-mother. Her world is a much better, safer place now, and everyone tells her that she should feel happy. But Ginny is stifled. Her voice is pushed down. Silenced. Bottled up for too long now. It’s ready to burst.

Ginny is desperate to get back to where she came from, back to what she left behind. Because something heartbreaking happened there—something that only Ginny knows—and nothing will stop her from going back to make it right. She’ll even get herself kidnapped.

Ginny Moon is an illuminating look at one girl’s journey to find her way home. In this stunning debut, Benjamin Ludwig gives a voice to the voiceless, reminding us that often we only hear those who speak the loudest, and there’s much to be learned by opening up our ears and our hearts.

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Library Reads

LibraryReads List

July 2017

LibraryReads has announced the top ten books available in July that librarians across the country love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the LibraryReads site.

If you are a librarian, you can nominate titles for the LibraryReads list via NetGalley – learn more here!

Additional LibraryReads titles:

The Almost Sisters: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson
(William Morrow, 9780062105714)

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NetGalley Author Interview: Sara Ella

Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Sara Ella,” now! Here, we talk about her latest release in The Unblemished Trilogy, Unraveling, world building and how she got so attached to stories with a HEA (Happily Ever After)! You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and BookTrib.com.

Unraveling

Request It!

Pub Date: July 11, 2017
Teens & YA
Published by Thomas Nelson

See More of Their Titles

What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After defeating her grandfather and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

Now that the Verity is intertwined with her soul and Joshua’s finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her link to Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Just Love
Blog URL: http://justlovereviews.com/
Your name: El Springer

A nice place to start is with your blogger origin story – how did Just Love get started?

I started Just Love in 2015 as a solo blogger. I was fairly new to the LGBTQIA+ romance community, and was frustrated by my search to find quality books to spend my money on; other review blogs were difficult to navigate, or had different reading tastes. So I started Just Love to document what I was reading, share it with the world, and help other people make informed decisions on what to read!

At first, the site was Just Love Romance, because that was all that I was reading. Back then, my job allowed me plenty of time for reading, and I was devouring 7-10 books a week and reviewing them. But in April 2016, unable to keep up with that pace anymore, I brought on seven new reviewers—the most amazing group of people ever! I was so fortunate to find such a diverse and talented team. We changed the name to Just Love, since we weren’t just reviewing romance anymore, and the blog continued to grow.

Today we have almost a dozen full-time and part-time reviewers, and we just celebrated our second birthday!

You have a queer romance series (M/M and F/F) coming out in 2017. Can you talk a little bit about how reviewing has influenced your own writing?

Reviewing makes me take a step back from reading to critically analyze a book. What works and what doesn’t? Why did I enjoy a trope in one book, but not in another? When you spend so much time thinking about what you read, it definitely helps with your own writing. For example, I love the “stranded in a blizzard” trope in romance, but the plots were often so predictable that I couldn’t really appreciate it. So I wrote Whiteout, which was my take on that trope, and tried to do something different there.

Just Love also helped me find the courage to submit my own writing for publication. Through blogging, I met authors and publishers, and gained a much better understanding of the publishing industry. I was able to ask my favorite authors how they got started, and connect with editors who offered fantastic advice. Because of this, there was less of an ‘unknown’, and I wasn’t so scared to pitch my books!

Do you have a preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?

When I started blogging, my reviews were, “This is why you should (or shouldn’t) read this book.” Now my approach has changed; I want to tell a reader my reaction. How did this book make me feel, why did I enjoy (or dislike) this novel? I urge my reviewers to do the same. By making the review personal, you’re better able to convey your emotional response to it, which I think helps people make a decision about whether to read a book or not. If you’re just saying, “This is a good book and you should read it because it’s well written,” well… I don’t find that very believable.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

I can tell you that everyone on our blog is excited for Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell (an M/M football romance). I’d say this is our most anticipated release of the summer!

I’m also personally super excited about Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee, which is a YA novel with an asexual protagonist!

As for my favorite covers? I think the covers for Layla Reyne’s Irish & Whisky series are stunning! (Book One, Two, and Three).

Another cover I adore is Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore… I have this ARC in paperback, and it’s simply gorgeous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Just Love have anything special planned for GLBT Book Month this June?

Since we’re a queer-only review site, we haven’t planned anything specifically themed around GLBT Book Month. We do have a few really awesome (and still Top Secret!) featured posts going up this month, though. And beginning in July we’ll be starting theme months, bringing in special guests and highlighting books around a common identity/orientation or concept.

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Reviews, discussions, and author posts highlighting queer (LGBTQIA+) books. Also occasional posts about pasta or chocolate, many twitter shenanigans, and tons of late-night hilarity!

The one book you wish was never-ending:

Wolfsong, by TJ Klune. I was so upset when I got to the last page that I immediately started re-reading it! (Thankfully he’s writing a sequel…)

Your favorite two publishers for GLBT titles:

Just two?! There are so many great ones out there. Maybe a bit biased, but I’ll say Riptide Publishing is one of them. And Interlude Press is phenomenal—high quality fiction and amazing authors!

The last book that made you smile:

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. What a perfect, brilliant, hilarious read!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter books turned me from “reader” to “book lover” and introduced me to online community. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I was today.

Thanks so much, El, for spending time with us and answering our questions! 

Please make sure to check out the Just Love blog and more LGBTQIA on NetGalley!

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