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

 

Discussing Other Breakable Things With Kelley York & Rowan Altwood

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelley York & Rowan Altwood, authors of Other Breakable Things from Entangled Teen. This is a rather emotional novel, but one with an incredible premise.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Other Breakable Things:

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

Q1: Where did the inspiration for Other Breakable Things come from? It’s a rather heavy hearted tale.

Kelley: I think a lot of my books have that heavy quality; even Dirty London, which is overall more light-hearted and optimistic, has some heavy themes, like addiction, tucked beneath the surface. When I talked Rowan into writing something with me, she had the idea for Luc and his ailments, and we decided a book on euthanasia and the Death with Dignity act would be a good one subject to tackle.

Q2: Given the subject matter of the book, did you ever have to take a break to gather your thoughts?

Rowan: Not really. We both thrive on this kind of stuff.

Kelley: For me, it’s therapeutic. It gets emotional at times and you really feel the “character bleed,” but some of my best writing (I think) comes when it gets emotional.

Q3: What made you tie in the Japanese legend behind folding paper cranes?

20657470Kelley: I read a book as a kid called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. It’s a historical fiction about a little girl (who actually existed) in Japan who contracts leukemia after the bombing of Hiroshima. She starts folding cranes in order to be granted a wish. I first read this book in grade school, and the idea of this legend has stuck with me so strongly ever since. It’s a great kid’s book and I suggest everyone check it out.

 

Q4: What do you want your readers to take away from this book?

Rowan: Nothing is black and white; the hardest decisions in life are made in shades of grey.

Q5: What do you admire most about the characters you created?

Rowan: I like Luc’s sass. I know people think he comes off as a douche a lot of the time, but honestly if you think about how much time he’s spent being sick and in hospitals in his life, he hasn’t had a normal upbringing or socialization. He’s awkward and doesn’t like to admit it. I like his sarcasm probably because a bit of that comes from me.

Kelley: Evelyn’s loyalty, I think, and the growth she displays throughout the story. She starts off pretty meek and go-with- the-flow, and gradually learns to stop letting everyone else’s needs come before her own.

Q6: Describe Other Breakable Things in three words.

Kelley: Painful, hopeful, emotional.

Q7: Where is one place you’d like to go on a road trip to and why?

Rowan: If I only had one stop? Point Reyes National Seashore.

Kelley: Same. It’s our go-to vacation spot.

Q8: What’s your writing process like?

Rowan: I throw words at a page and hope Kelley can make sense of them.

Kelley: I arrange words, throw more words at a page, and hope my editor can make sense of them.

Q9: Do you have any projects in mind for the future?

Kelley: I have a few books in the works, and no idea which I’ll finish first. I have one my editor really wants to see from me, an LGBT dark contemporary, another road trip-esque kind of book (very, very different from OBT), and the beginning to a fantasy series.

Author Bio:

Kelley York and Rowan Altwood are a wife and wife writing team living in central California with their daughter and way too many cats. Kelley is the author of Hushed, Made of Stars, and Modern Monsters, and Other Breakable Things is Rowan’s debut.

Social Media: 

 

Once again, a big thank you to Kelley and Rowan for joining me today. To see more book related posts on my end, keep an eye on the blog.

Xx

Megan

Short Stories & Editing Tips

Hey Readers & Writers,

Today I’m taking Monday blogging seriously for I have two posts to shove at you. Okay, I’m not really going to shove them at you. I’m going to politely ask you to check them out if you’d like.

The first post is a guest post on Kate Foster’s blog where I discuss how I write short stories, where the ideas come from, as well as why I sometimes prefer writing them over full fledged novels. Since this is a well debated topic in the writing world, I figured I would offer my perspective. That post can be found here.

The second matter of business I am sharing today is the third completed manuscript analysis on The Inkwell Council. Justine and Ismael tackle large issues such as the message of one’s story and how to convey said message, while I tackle how to convey a character’s thoughts without your grammar suffering in the process. That post can be found here.

I hope you enjoy them both and they help offer some insight in the writing and editing world.

Xx

Megan

A Little Change Can Go A Long Way

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to 2017! I am wishing everyone a happy and healthy year. I hope all of your writing, reading, and personal goals become a reality or you get closer to obtaining them. I have a few to reach myself, my biggest one being to finish my book that I started in April of last year.

Instead of making a post about resolutions or a look back on my year, I thought I would add on to my young adult series by sharing a personal story. It’s a positive one and I figured we all couldn’t go wrong with some inspiration and good vibes.

Anyone who has gone to college or experienced education in any form knows a teacher can be a big influence as to whether a class is enjoyable or miserable, despite the material. One also knows how rigid a set curriculum can be, especially when it has been repeated time and time again or contains subject matter that doesn’t feel relevant to contemporary culture. I found myself thinking that a lot as I went through an education in humanities – reading books in the romantic and medieval era. I always managed to find one or two per lecture that I liked, but I also yearned to read something current. They could be equally discussed and valued as literature from previous centuries.

It was why I was intrigued when I was signing up for classes and I saw a seminar in Young Adult and Children’s literature. With a handful of praying and violent clicking, I secured myself a spot in the class. There were only twenty spots so you could say I Hunger Gamed it out.

I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the class. I knew some freshman were assigned to read The Hunger Games or Perks of Being A Wallflower (books I highly recommend). I had no idea what upperclassmen would be assigned. It turned out that when I saw the syllabus, my hopes were instantly ignited. Some of the books on the list were Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Alice in Wonderland by  Lewis Carroll. The class experimented with picture books, graphic novels, long works, short works. My teacher did her best to not only demonstrate her love for books geared towards younger audiences, but also the different kinds of outlets that existed other than full fledged novels. She even had a guest speaker come to our class to push for diversity in literature since the numbers were not looking good.

Going to that class was always something I looked forward to because I knew the book would be worth reading and the class discussion would be alive. The class also became a therapy session, some of my peers and myself, venting issues and personal stories that remained in the classroom. It became a space that was inviting and comforting. We learned a lot about each other, but also about the variety of texts that were out there.

I was exposed to young adult books for quite a while, but for others in my class, it was their first time. They were blown away by how much creativity went into these books. I’ll use the example of Wonderstruck which was told with both full fledged illustrations and texts, the storytelling intersecting to create a cohesive children’s tale. I will also mention A Monster Calls that though had text accompanying photos would not be the same without the illustrations. The illustrations gave the story even more of a pulse. These books became the medium of which we were able to learn about the publishing world and ourselves.

My teacher had a firm belief that if children and teens were given the right books, it could make a difference in their lives and how they developed as adults. She fought for this class to be possible because she believed there needed to be more offered than standard literature classes. And my writer friends, she won, because of her passion and drive. But not only that, she made a hell of a lot of friends along the way. She was more than a teacher. She was someone who inspired, someone who challenged one’s thoughts and opened their eyes to literature.

alone-1822474_1280

The reason for sharing this memory of my seminar was because just because a book is geared towards a younger audience doesn’t mean its worth suddenly goes out the window. Sometimes, we need to reawaken the kid in ourselves or maybe find something that needs maturing that we didn’t even know about. Sometimes, we need one person to show us something even if we protest or are uncertain.

Not to mention for children and teens who are struggling, a book could be the key to easing a burden, solving a problem.

So when I say I love young adult books, I think back to all the books I’ve read, but I also look back at this class that I took in college, where my mind was broadened even further and I found a teacher who understood exactly how I felt.

Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep creating.

Xx

Megan

Writing Stereotypes

Hello Everyone,

How the heck are we halfway into November? I am asking myself that as I write this post – something that should have been done a while ago. But it has been a hectic few weeks, and I am now settled enough to write without my brain dissolving into a pile of mush.

The topic I thought I would tackle today is writing stereotypes, which any writer probably
knows about and has faced at some point in their lives. If you haven’t, you are lucky and this post can act as a warning for what may come in the future.

#1 – Make It Rain

I am titling this stereotype as such because it is the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds when you say you are writing a book. It is quite a grueling process to write, to make sure your plot aligns, your characters are well rounded, your grammar is polished. It is also a task to get through publication: between finding an agent, signing with a publishing house, edits, production, and press. As nice as it would be to write a book, immediately get it published, and have money rolling in shortly thereafter, it often doesn’t work that way.

How can that be, Megan? What about J.K. Rowling, John Green, James Dashner and so on and so forth.

My answer is they were lucky. Someone recognized their talent, signed them on, and their books were a hit with millions of people. They have earned their success and each of them are on my list of favorite authors. I would love to join them in the future, as I’m sure many other writers would too.

#2 – Writing Can’t Be Hard

Wrong. So wrong. Wrong to the power of infinity and beyond.

There is so much going on within a writer’s brain, so many things that need to happen writing-1317009in order to create a coherent story that makes writing difficult. Combine that with muse and real life and a book is barely a walk in the park. I started writing my novel earlier this year, around April, and am still making progress with it till this day. Other authors I know have been working on their books for years, scrapping it, redoing it, leaving it for months and then coming back to it.

Don’t think that I don’t love writing. It is tied into my soul. It is one of the reasons I exist. It has saved me from many dark times. What I have learned from finally writing a book past childhood is that it requires patience and perseverance. Can’t fix a plot hole? Take a break. Think on it. Have a long shower. Your character isn’t working? Take on a new point of view. Cut them from the story entirely if you need to.

Writing is a series of difficult decisions, testing not only the characters in the story, but you as a person and you as someone developing a craft.

#3 – What’s Your Dayjob?

Opposite to stereotype number one is the disapproving glance of onlookers who believe writing is a pipe dream. I’ve had to deal with this one several times, the questions lingering in someone’s eyes as I tell them I want to write a book someday.

What do you really want to do with your life?

You couldn’t have chosen something else?

That’s not how you make money.

Oh. Okay. -moves onto next person-

When I first began writing, I found this discouraging. I battled within myself if this was really what I wanted to do. I could suck it up and go into graphic design or computer science, other fields I considered, but I ruled them out because I didn’t see them in my future. I didn’t turn to them as a comfort. Turns out, they turned into hobbies that died out as I grew older. Writing was still my passion and until success comes, if at all, I am happy with getting into the publishing industry as an editor.

My advice to anyone who has this negativity thrown their way, do not let it hurt you. Stories exists for several reasons: to entertain, inform, inspire. If there is a story within you, tell it because you never know who you are helping by doing so.

#4 – Mental Illness and Creativity

There are studies that say depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and so forth affect the creativity process, often in a positive way. I know writers who have some of these issues and I also know writers who are mentally healthy.

For someone who has dealt with mental illness, writing can alleviate the suffering.  However, mental illness is not a qualifying component necessary to write. If you write because it helps problems in your life or with your health, that is great. I’m glad you found a coping mechanism. If you write just because you love it, then I am equally as happy for you.

Writers come from all situations and backgrounds. To say that only the best craft comes from the dark side of the mind is an exaggeration. The inspiration to write can come from a variety of places and each should be recognized especially if they create a beautiful story in the end.

#5 Writers Are Internet Loving, Animal Hoarding, Caffeine Addicts 

Well…

Erm…

This one is kind of true.

Keep those laptops and puppies and kittens close my writer friends! Oh, don’t forget the coffee or tea too. Who knows where all the good books would go without any of those things.

Xx

Megan