Games & Best Friends Featuring Anna Priemaza

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Priemaza, author of Kat and Meg Conquer the World releasing November 2017 from HarperTeen. This is a book I’ve been excited for and I was even more thrilled when Anna agreed to talk with me about the book. She raises some really strong points about friendship and identity.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Kat and Meg Conquer the World:

33877998Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different.

Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to new people. The only place she feels safe is in front of her computer, playing her favorite video game.

Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. Friends. Her boyfriend. Even the stepfather who raised her.

But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: their obsession with the online gaming star LumberLegs and his hilarious videos.

Meg’s pretty sure this is fate. Kat doesn’t know how to deal with someone who talks faster than she thinks. But if they can stick together and stay out of their heads, they might figure out how to help each other—and build the kind of friendship Kat never knew she wanted and Meg never believed she’d find.

Q1: Where did the idea for Kat and Meg Conquer the World come from?

Anna: When I’m brainstorming a book, I don’t think about plot, I think about people. My ideas notebook is full of characters and their relationship to each other. Kat and Meg Conquer the World stemmed from the concept of best friends who are opposites.


Q2: Did you grow up playing video games? If so, what did you love to play and on what gaming system?

Anna: I owe everything I am to the computer game Math Rabbit, which I played for hours and hours and hours when I was a kid. You don’t know joy until you’ve saved up enough e-tickets to buy the rollerskating poodle from the prize tent.

Also:

Gameboy – Super Mario Land, Kirby’s Dreamland, Yoshi, Rolan’s Curse, Tetris

N64 – MarioKart, Smash Brothers, Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Computer – Daggerfall, Heroes of Might and Magic, Jagged Alliance

We had only one computer and one console, so I spent a ton of time watching my sister play Zelda or my brother play some dungeon crawler game I can’t remember the name of. (How old do I sound? I swear I’m not that old. Technology changes quickly, kids!)


Q3: Do you share any traits with the characters you’ve created?

Anna: Well, like both of them, I’m a fangirling nerd and gamer who values friendship fiercely. I am also intimately acquainted with panic attacks and anxiety, like Kat, though some of the things that trigger my anxiety are different than hers.


Q4: What was it like getting into the headset of both Kat and Meg? Did you have an easier time with one character versus the other?

Anna: Kat came alive for me from the moment I set pen to the page. I have a vivid memory of writing the first few paragraphs of her first scene and thinking, “Oh! Hello, Kat! You’re here! It’s so nice to meet you!”

Meg took a bit longer to show herself, but once she did, I had a complete blast getting into her head. Meg is impulsive and gregarious and hilarious and although she is so very different from me, I adore her with my whole heart, and I love being in her head.


Q5: ADHD and anxiety are both important issues that need to be discussed in literature, but can also be complicated to write about given how they affect people differently. Did you do any research for these issues and what was that like?

Anna: Let me say first of all that I don’t consider Kat and Meg to be an “issue book.” It’s not a book about anxiety or about ADHD. It is a book about friendship, fandom, video games, and how people can be rocks for each other even when they themselves feel like quicksand.

I like to make this distinction because my own disabilities and mental health diagnoses feel similar to the fact that I have size 9 feet (okay, okay, size 9.5).

(Wait, what?

Bear with me, I have a point. You’ll see. I hope.)

The size of my feet is an unchangeable, defined part of me that impacts me in obvious (what shoes I can buy or wear) and not-as-obvious (how I walk or stand or balance) ways. I can’t wear the shoes of someone who has different sized feet than me–at least, I can’t wear them and be comfortable. My foot/shoe size impacts me on a day-to-day basis.

At the same time, though, if someone painted a picture of me, and it turned out all they painted was my feet… that’d be upsetting (not to mention creepy). I am more than my feet. I am more than my handicapped arm. I am more than my anxiety. I am more than my dermatillomania. I am more than my sensory processing disorder. (Though these things are all still a core part of me and impact me every day.)

Kat has severe anxiety, and that impacts everything she does throughout the whole book. But so does the fact that she is clever and thoughtful and ambitious and witty and completely badass at video games.

Meg has ADHD, and that impacts everything she does throughout the whole book. But so does the fact that she is fearless and brimming with ideas and passionate and hilarious.

All of this is to say that yes, I did a crap-ton of research for the aspects of Kat’s and Meg’s lives that are outside of my own experience–from reading through forums to watching YouTube videos to asking friends hundreds of questions to having numerous sensitivity readers. But my research did not define who they are, it just helped me paint various parts of their portraits with a bit more precision.


Q6: Describe Kat and Meg Conquer the World in three words.

Anna: Gamer girl BFFs


Q7: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Anna: Friendship is badass and just as swoon-worthy as romance.


Q8: What is something you nerd out about?

Anna: I fangirl over YouTube gamers so much that I dressed as one for Halloween. I own at least 20 articles of Doctor Who-related clothing. At home, I live in my Hufflepuff hoodie. My husband and I own over 200 board games. I am…oh, wait, you said just one.


Q9:  Do you have plans for future books and if so, will they be a genre similar to Kat and Meg or a new one all together?

Anna: I’m currently working on my first round of edits for book two, which will come out from HarperTeen a year or so after Kat and Meg. It’s also a contemporary YA, about a girl who travels across Canada to search for her missing sister, accompanied by her sister’s best friend and the cultist accused of her murder.

As you can probably tell from that description, it’s a lot darker than Kat and Meg, but it still has a lot in common with my debut. It’s about relationships–friendship and family–and is still woven with nerd references and humour.

One thing you can expect from all my books is a primary focus on non-romantic relationships. Romance is great, but it’s only one of the thousands of ties that bind us to the people around us. We can have our heart broken by a friend, be supported by a rival, learn something from a younger sibling, be betrayed by a celebrity, be profoundly impacted by a stranger…*trails off, picks up ideas notebook, and starts writing frantically*


Author Bio: 

_DSC5200 v3 webAnna Priemaza is a contemporary young adult author and a practicing family and immigration lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta, where she lives with her husband. She can never quite remember how old she is, as she knits like an old lady, practices law like an adult, fangirls over YouTubers like a teen, and dreams like a child.

 

If you’d like to follow Anna and her work, which I highly recommend, see all these lovely links:

Website: http://annapriemaza.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33877998-kat-and-meg-conquer-the-world

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annab311a

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annapriemaza/

Amazon (US): http://a.co/3Egl2G7

Amazon (CA): http://a.co/7XifUqO

Once again, a big thank you to Anna for joining me today.  Be sure to preorder/pick up a copy of Kat and Meg Conquer the World. I sure will be. To see more book related posts on my end, keep an eye on the blog.

Xx

Megan

 

Queens of Geek: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Last night I finished Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde and all I can say is this book is both adorable and powerful.

20170418_092619

Taken from my instagram: Written-Infinities.

It follows three friends who go to SupaCon, which is a big gathering of movie, YouTube, and television stars. These friends are moving on to college within a couple of months and this is their way of treating themselves for making it through their education. Not to mention it has been something they wanted to do for a long time as a group. Many events happen at SupaCon, leading to self-discovery, love, and beating back some demons each of them have been holding onto.

This is a dual POV book following the characters Charlie and Taylor. Charlie is a famous YouTube star who had a terrible breakup from her co-star of a recent film, Reese. She is long since over him, but she spent the last few months piecing herself back together and finding out what it means to not be tied together with her ex in the public limelight. She has to deal with fans who want to see her back together with her ex and her entertainment company that wants her to be nice to Reese for publicity. She also identifies as bisexual and there is a fantastic scene in the book where she challenges her ex about sexuality. He asks a question bisexuals get too often: how can you be bisexual when you’re dating a guy?

The answer that Charlie gives, my dear readers, is a good one. There doesn’t need to be proof of bisexuality through dating a woman. Rather, she knew she was bisexual the same way her ex knew he was straight. What I love that the author does is she constantly reinforces there is nothing wrong with being bisexual.  She has also made Charlie a strong character, not afraid of talking about her sexuality, showing her confidence, or noting her mixed race heritage.

The second character, Taylor has anxiety. Throughout this book, I constantly found myself nodding my head in agreement with the descriptions Jen gives about anxiety. Between the fears Taylor has and how she worries how other people will read her anxiety (as her being stuck up or bossy), I too have gone through similar experiences. The portrayal was honest and real and all I wanted was for Taylor to push past her anxiety and find the happiness she deserved. Taylor, an amazing well rounded character, does not only challenge stereotypes about anxiety, but also challenges fat-shaming and misconceptions about being on the spectrum. There is so much to love and learn from Taylor’s chapters as well as so much to connect with.

This isn’t a difficult or long read. It is very much fluff and friendship and feeling good after reading it. Most of the plots are predictable, but I didn’t mind. You have a solid friendship, romances to root for, and wonderful representation. From the second I picked up this book, I went yes, this is what I need to be reading.

Note: The references in the book to all things Geek are A+.

I’m giving it 5/5 SupaCon passes.

Xx

Megan

Normalcy Doesn’t Work

Hey Guys!

It’s been a while since I’ve had publication news to share, but I’m back to say my short story Kaleidoscope was published in Shift the Zine! I couldn’t have been happier to receive their email saying they accepted my work.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to come from this piece when I wrote it. It was done in one sitting, but as I reread it, I felt like it wasn’t quite right. This story was originally double in length and jumped around a lot. Before I chopped at it in the editing process, it was definitely a realistic fiction/contemporary piece.

I’ve written contemporary pieces before and I love reading them, but something about this story begged for a new genre. There was a little inkling in my brain that slowly turned into: “hey, why don’t you make Jared’s painting come to life?”

I promise you’ll understand that question once you read my story.

pexels-photo-94736Once I decided to go through with the plan, the story read easier. I cut most of the original draft and settled on an odder, more emotionally charged piece. For the main character Jared, who I’ve written before, but never in a story I submitted, he’s an artistic guy. He heals through what he creates. He takes his emotions and shoves them onto a canvas. My desire to alter the story came from the needed exploration of what Jared’s art can do for him especially after suffering from heartbreak.

This story couldn’t have been possible without the help of one of my dear friends Kristie, who created the character of Ash and through her, I have been inspired to create so many things.

If you’d like to give Kaleidoscope a read, click here, and be sure to share your thoughts with me (if you’d like), in the comments.

Xx

Megan

Writing The Hard Stories

In order for characters to grow, they have to face hardships, have things taken from them, lose their initial opinions. As writers, we plan how this happens and are tasked with the most difficult thing: capturing this development on paper.

Writing a story isn’t easy. It takes a lot of will power, imagination, and convincing yourself that your writing doesn’t suck. Once you’ve managed to move past these qualms, you may come up against another challenge. How do I handle writing a scene that is either extremely personal or possibly triggering?

I’m a firm believer in using writing as a way of dealing with life or even escaping it. For a long time, writing was the only comfort I had. I threw my emotions onto the page no matter how much it hurt or even if the words I was putting down made no sense.  Some of the short stories that came from these moods were emotionally charged and on the dark side.

To this day, I still like to write the heavier stories, ones that are both a challenge and a release. Sometimes, I need to step away from my WIP. Other times I get lost in the mindset of my characters or the events playing out before me until hours fly by and I have to snap myself out of it. This happened a few months ago when my MC sought revenge on a group of people who kidnapped his best friend. To put it lightly, the end result wasn’t pretty nor was the mentality of the character going into the ordeal. I remember saying to myself: “These thoughts are psychopathic.” However, I finished the chapter and emerged with new questions about my MC and my capabilities as a writer.

32212160353_2e963e4e88

There’s another scene in my story about death, which I took details from a personal event that happened in my life. The chapter was depressing to say the least and I found my mood descending with every word I wrote. The good news: it’s one of my favorite chapters. The bad news: I felt every ounce of my character’s pain.

It’s a double edged sword being a writer when our characters become like people we know and grew up with. Their suffering isn’t always something we can separate from our own. I choose to dive into these emotions, using it as a current of inspiration. How I come out of the experience once I’m done writing, I figure I’ll handle later.

This method does not work for everyone. Stories can get overwhelming, personal; hit a bit too close to home. But these are also the parts of the story that connect with our readers, that make us clutch books to our chests and weep at an ungodly hour of the night. Whenever you write scenes like these, here are some tips to remember:

  1. Do your research. You don’t want to offend anyone with what you’re writing, let alone come across as ignorant. There is no such thing as too much research.
  2. Take a break. There is no reason to harm yourself while writing. If it gets too much, you can save it for another day, take a breather, listen to music, or watch your favorite show or movie. You always come first.
  3. Make sure these scenes are not included for dramatic effect, but actually advance the story and the growth of your main character. Shock value is not the best reason for including a dark scene.
  4. Understand it’s okay if it is not right the first time. That’s what editing is for. Those scenes that don’t feel right will either be polished or cut.If you’re still having trouble, Beta Readers are a great resource to see if you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.
  5. Don’t let anyone tell you not to write something. If it’s for the better of your story or even a way of dealing with what’s going on in your life, do it.
  6. Remember your readers. Writing a scene correctly and appropriately will connect you to your audience.

These scenes will always be part of our jobs as writers, but it’s how you go about them and handle yourself in the process that really matters.

Xx

Megan

The Message Behind Goodbye Days Ft. Jeff Zentner

Hello Readers & Writers,

If you haven’t read Jeff Zenter’s twitter thread on why he wrote Goodbye Days, I highly recommend you do so by clicking here.

It is insightful, genuinely inspiring, and only made me want to read his book all the more quickly. Though, as readers, we know our TBR piles never quite end. Nevertheless, I reached out to Jeff in order to talk a bit more in depth about Goodbye Days and his inspiration for such an emotionally charged story.

In case you haven’t heard of Goodbye Days, here is a synopsis:

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

Now onto the interview!

Q1: What drew you to writing about a very difficult topic – especially to the extent Carver experiences it?

Jeff: I’ve always had a certain fascination with death. It’s so final and universal. I contended with it some in my first book, but not to the extent I felt like I needed to. I was also interested in telling a story about guilt and blame.

Q2: On your twitter account, you discussed wanting to deal with questions of accountability, memory, saying goodbye to loved ones – among others things. Do you feel as if you’ve successfully grappled with these questions?

Jeff: I hope so. For now.

Q3: Describe Goodbye Days in three words. 

Jeff: Tell your story.

Q4: What traits do you and Carver share?

Jeff: We both see a lot of beauty in the world. We both like to think about important questions of life and death.

Q5: What do you want readers to take away from such an emotionally driven tale? 

Jeff: That lives are complex stories; that you can cause something to happen without being to blame for it.

Q6: Is there any advice you want to share to a young adult audience?

Jeff: Beware of anyone who tries to get you to blame your problems on some group of people; beware of people who tell you that selfishness is a virtue; beware of anyone who tries to make you fear whole groups of people.

Q7: How did you get into writing? 

Jeff: I got into writing because I wanted to make art for teenagers and I was past the age where I could make music marketed to teenagers.

Q8: Not only are you a writer, but you’re a musician. Does being in tune with music help your writing process at all?

Jeff: It does. It helps me be attentive to economy of language and melody of sentences.

Q9: Share one random fact about yourself. 

Jeff: I once owned a pet sloth.

Author Bio:IMG_4026

Jeff Zentner is the author of William C. Morris Award winner and Carnegie Medal
longlister The Serpent King and most recently, Goodbye Days. Before becoming a writer, he was a singer-songwriter and guitarist who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. In addition to writing and recording his own music, he worked with young musicians at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp, which inspired him to write for young adults. He lives in Nashville.

To find out more about Jeff’s projects, click the links below:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffzentner
Website: http://www.jeffzentnerbooks.com/

Lastly, be sure to check out Jeff’s newest book Goodbye Days and stick around for more book related posts on my end.

Xx

Megan

History Is All You Left Me: A Review

Hello Reader & Writers,

Before I start, I want to say that this book deals with a lot of heavy themes, death being the major one. Aside from that, there are questions revolving around self-identity, guilt, love, and healing. Like the last review I did, this one will be spoiler free.

The book follows a boy named Griffin who is dealing with the loss of his ex-boyfriend, but

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Taken from my instagram: Written-Infinities

first love, Theo. It alternates between history (the past), and today (the present). In the history snapshots, the reader learns about how Theo and Griffin got together, their relationship, and the bumps they encounter along the way. The present focuses on Griffin trying to deal with death and not always in the best way. The only person Griffin finds who truly understands what he is going through is Theo’s boyfriend at the time of his death, Jackson.

I read More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera at the end of last year and it was an emotional trip. Having heard about Adam’s new book, I expected the same, but was surprised to find out this book was much worse. I will admit I needed to take breaks while reading, because emotions were displayed so vividly that I required time to gather myself. I’ve seen a lot of reviews and responses to Adam’s book, most of them mentioning the undesirable need to cry. I didn’t cry, but I felt every emotion as if it were my own. I felt numbness and desperation and an ache in my chest.

Despite all of these emotions swirling around inside of me, I finished the book in one day. I haven’t done that in quite some time. I wasn’t able to pull away from the strength of Adam’s prose, how every sentence felt as if it belonged there, how every sentence made me feel for Griffin and the other characters involved. Adam treated the theme of death with respect; he didn’t sugarcoat it or romanticize it. Death hurts and it’s not the same journey for everyone, especially for those who are young. It is not always about “getting over it” or “moving on.”

I’m also going to award praise to the portrayal of Griffin’s OCD and compulsions. The reader learns early on that Griffin has these characteristics about him, things that even Griffin questions, especially as the book progresses. He prefers even numbers and has to stand on someone’s left whenever he is walking or sitting beside them. The uniqueness of the tale is Adam doesn’t portray OCD the way it is commonly seen – a need to be clean at all times or hyper-organization. Adam shows that OCD can manifest in other ways.

Another component of the book I enjoyed was Adam’s portrayal of sexuality. Theo defines his sexuality as liking “good people, period.” This pleased me as a reader because it opened up the conversation that sexuality doesn’t always follow a strict guideline. It isn’t always about liking just men or just women. It could come down to whoever makes you feel good, whoever you can relate to, whoever has your best interest at heart. Love is simply love and everyone experiences it differently.

This book has easily found its way onto my favorites list. It was brutally gut-wrenching, but it does not warrant an apology. Youth tends to be idolized – they cannot die or when they do it is a great tragedy. Theo’s death is a tragedy and History Is All You Left Me challenges this stereotype. It also brings up the question of how would you live your life if you knew you didn’t have much time? I found myself thinking about these questions as I read. I found myself thinking about those I loved. I found myself missing Theo, despite him being a fictional character.

Adam Silvera, I want to thank you for writing this book, for making me laugh and grieve and find hope in your story. I can only imagine what this drew out of you as a writer, being one myself. But trust me when I say, this book is everything it needs to be and more.

5/5 Puzzle Pieces for me.
(You’ll understand the reference once you read this book).

Xx

Megan

My First Red Pen

Hello Everyone,

I had the pleasure of guest posting on Liz Meldon’s writing blog. The topic of my post was my first editing experience as well as what writers can learn from the process. Given my love of editing and reading, it only makes sense that I tell my tale.

For all writers who are nervous about reaching out for critique, trust me, it will make all the difference.

Check out my post here and leave your comments on your first editing experience if you’d like!

Xx

Megan