Interview with Hope Bolinger ~YA Author and Literary Agent

This week I was super excited to talk with literary agent and author Hope Bolinger about her recent release, Blaze. 

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From the Back Cover of Blaze

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.

Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day. 

To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.” 

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness—all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.

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DJS: As I read your book, I often found myself chuckling at Danny’s wit. Was it difficult to write humor or did it come naturally? What experiences did you draw on to write humor into your story?

HB: I love humor. I actually started writing as a comedic playwright. If you know me at all, I crack jokes all the time, which does draw many eyerolls from my younger brother as is the tendency of most younger brothers. I think you just have to have a sense of humor to make it through this industry. Certain rejections are simply funny. It’s like publishers are just desperate to come up with a reason not to take on your book. I literally had a publisher say, “There’s nothing wrong with this book. It’s perfect. But we’re not going to publish it.” A lot of awful stuff happened right before I wrote Blaze, and I had two options: to wallow or to poke fun at the ridiculousness of it all. I think all those humorous situations just pent up and turned into Danny.

DJS: Blaze is set in a boarding school, King’s Academy.  What was it about the boarding school culture that drew you to write a story in this setting? 

HB: I wanted to create a modern-day Babylon, and in the original story of Daniel, they basically live in the King’s palace for their education. It just felt like a boarding school. I also wrote it in college, which is basically a boarding school for adults. I think I just had to release some frustrations about the lack of AC in our forty-five year old dorm when the campus kept building such nice things for all the visitors.

DJS: As a writer, it’s easy to become attached to our characters. Can you tell us about one of your characters who tugs on your heartstrings? If you could meet them face to face and tell them one thing, what would it be? 

HB: I love all four of the characters in Blaze. Rayah really tugs hard on my heartstrings because she went through something somewhat similar to me. Throughout the series, we witness the falling out of her parents and how the divorce affects her. Because she’s so shy and timid, she doesn’t often let on how much it affects her. If I could meet her, I’d tell her she’s far stronger, smarter, and more beautiful than she thinks.

DJS: Friendship is a theme in your novel. What advice about friendship do you have for your young readers?

HB: Friendship is so important. Keep your friends as close as possible, and be there for them during the tough times. Friends can help you through the most difficult times of life. If I didn’t have a body of wonderful friends surrounding me during my parents’ divorce, I don’t know what I would’ve done.

DJS: Great advice, Hope. We all need friends to lean on in tough times.

I enjoyed reading Blaze. Thank you so much for spending time with us. Wishing you the best of luck with your novel!

Guys, next month be sure to pop over to Almost an Author for more of my interview with Hope Bolinger when we talk about writing.

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) just released, and they contracted the sequel for 2020. Find out more about her here.

Facebook: @therosewoman Twitter: @hopebolinger

Instagram: @hopebolinger  Website: hopebolinger.com

 

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Book Review|Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you”

“Just because you can’t experience everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience anything.”

“One thing I’m certain of: wanting just leads to more wanting. There’s no end to desire.”

Maddy is allergic to the world and has spent her entire life isolated. Vigilantly protected by her physician mother and her private nurse, Maddy has no interaction with the outside world. Enter the cute, funny, new next-door neighbor boy.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon is a young adult novel written in first person present tense and moves along at a fast pace. I liked Yoon’s writing style and the story hook.

I was surprised at how short this book felt. It was a quick, easy read, except for moments of unbelievability that broke the flow of the story. I kept tripping over inconsistencies and had to  re-read passages. Olly, Maddy’s love interest, is a character I enjoyed reading about. He is cute, funny, and has his own baggage. The interplay between the two characters unfolds beautifully and the romance hits just the right note.

I liked the message of the need to take risks and to live your own life. While I could not connect with the main character, I think many young teen girls relate to Maddy and the idea of being confined or isolated, kept apart from the things they desire. What teenager doesn’t feel as if they are somehow outside of the norm?

 

I had to wonder what happened to all of Maddy’s friends. There was a mention of her online friends, and then we never hear from them. In Maddy’s situation, I would assume she would be in online support groups. It seemed a stretch that Maddy bought into her mother’s delusion without question. With a minimum of research, Maddy would have been able to figure out the inconsistencies and become suspicious that she was not really sick. I felt the nurse should have caught on as well, so this part of the story didn’t work for me.

The idea that someone who is ill lives a life completely separated as bubble people from the world and will never find love is annoying. In the story, Maddy is doomed until we find out that she is not really disabled. All along the illness has been a figment of her mother’s imagination. Maddy is “normal” and therefore now she can have a “normal” relationship with the boy she loves. I didn’t care for the message here.  I would make sure to point this out to my teen if they read this book, and affirm that people who have medical conditions or disabilities often find love. I would have rather seen them find a way to overcome, instead of the solution being that illness did not exist.

The teen romance is well written, and the conflict between parent and child echoes typical relationship issues. I read the book in one evening. The storyline was interesting and my attention never flagged. You might like this book if you enjoy short, contemporary teen romances.

 

Issues of concern

Profanity, sex, deception, illness, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, Munchhausen syndrome, mental illness.

 

 

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Book Review| Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Book Review | Imaginary Girls

by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma is a bit of a departure for me.

Ruby is the town darling and everyone wants to be her friend. Chloe is her younger sister. One night the teenagers of the town are partying and at Ruby’s urging, Chloe attempts to swim across the reservoir. In the darkness Chloe comes across a boat and discovers the body of her classmate, London. Chloe leaves town to go stay with her father. After two years, Ruby wants her sister to come home. Chloe returns to find London alive and well. Somehow, Ruby, who always gets her way, is involved.

I chose this book based on a recommendation by my library without really knowing what it was. Imaginary Girls is a novel about two sisters caught up in a paranormal mystery. The story is a haunting one. At first, I was a bit leery of it because suspense is not usually my thing, but two pages in I was hooked.

In this novel, it’s difficult to tell what is real and what is not. The prose is magnificent. This twisted tale of tragedy unfolds in a series of surreal events. Imaginary Girls leaves you slightly unbalanced, guessing right up to the end.

I recently re-read I Am The Cheese and perhaps it primed me for this type of story. Perhaps it’s been a while since I heard a good ghost story. This novel reminded me of how much I loved to spin, and hear, a good campfire tale. In any case, this story caught  my interest and held it to the last page. 

The story is told from the younger sister’s point of view. The characterization of the sisters and their relationship is a fascinating exploration of obsession. This novel combines a complicated sisterly bond with the strange other-worldliness of a dark, fantastical world and lyrical prose.

Imaginary Girls is rich in its characters and prose. It is not a fast-paced book, but is absorbing and intense. I do believe at one point in the book I actually shivered picturing the water of the reservoir. There is an eerie twilight zone vibe to this story.

Be forewarned, the characters in this novel do not behave well. There is much language. Imaginary Girls is for mature teens. If your teen is reading this book, I suggest you read it as well and discuss the issues and themes in the book.

Sex, drugs, alcohol abuse, death, language.

 

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