Monday, March 5, 2018
A few months ago, fellow 2018 debut author Farrah Penn and I interviewed each other about our upcoming contemporary YA books and publishing experiences. Since Farrah's book, 12 STEPS TO NORMAL, comes out in just one week and my book, ALL OUT OF PRETTY, releases in less than a month, I thought this was the perfect time to share our conversation with the blogosphere. Hope you enjoy it!

12 STEPS TO NORMAL, out from Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown in March 2018, is about a teen who moves back home after her father finishes Sober Living rehabilitation and finds her life upside-down. When she develops her own 12 steps to get back to normal, she has to redefine what “normal” really is.  

ALL OUT OF PRETTY, releasing from Creston Books in April 2018, is about straight-A student Andrea Hathaway, who finds herself indebted to her mother's drug-dealer boyfriend. In order to survive, she learns to keep her head down and her mouth shut. But soon she realizes that surviving is not enough; she must use her smarts to plan an escape—even if it means betraying her best friends and leaving her mother behind.

Farrah: It sounds like both of our books deal with different types of hardships and teenagers grappling at normalcy. What inspired you to write ALL OUT OF PRETTY?
Ingrid: For me, it always starts with character. Andrea, the MC in ALL OUT OF PRETTY, was actually a minor character in the first novel I ever tried to write back when I was a teenager. When I decided to dust off that novel and work on it years later, my critique partners mentioned how compelling Andrea was and encouraged me to write her story someday. So a couple of years later, after letting that idea percolate, Andrea’s voice and full story came to me. Once I started writing it, I couldn’t stop. TWELVE STEPS TO NORMAL sounds amazing — I can’t wait to read about Kira’s journey! How did you come up with the idea, and what was the most challenging part about writing it?
Farrah: It’s amazing how much we learn from our prior work! I have MANY shelved books and stole a kissing scene from one to put into TWELVE STEPS, haha. I wanted to write a hopeful story about a father and daughter whose relationship was rocky due to his struggle with alcoholism — yet focus on how that would directly affect Kira (my main character). But I also love a sweet romance, so I definitely wanted to include that in Kira’s journey with figuring out WHO may be right for her, and who she thinks is right for her. I think the most challenging part was writing those real, raw emotions of loving someone who is an addict, as it’s a disease my own father suffered from.

Should I move on to a fun question?! Do you have a “receiving The Call” story??
Ingrid: Yes! Well, for my agent (the awesome Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary), the moment I remember most was getting her email after she requested my book. I’ll never forget clicking it open and reading the words “I love it!” I was so excited I couldn’t breathe. And then when she called me several months later to tell me about the offer from Creston, I basically started crying with happiness. My husband was there and we hugged, and my son was doing fist pumps in the background. It was an amazing moment. Same question back at you!
Farrah: Aww, that is so sweet your family was there to enjoy that moment with you! When my agent called to tell me TWELVE STEPS had sold, I was in the car on my lunch break running an errand. I answered through Bluetooth but ended up pulling over into some random gas station to talk because I was so surprised and excited. It was surreal! After, I immediately called my mom and sister and ended up taking a much longer lunch break than I intended (but I don’t think anyone noticed!)
But it’s a lot of work getting that life-changing call. What was your publication journey like? Was there a moment you felt like giving up?
Ingrid: Oh wow, you definitely needed to pull over for that call — and I agree that an extended lunch break was in order! I started writing ALL OUT OF PRETTY six years ago, so it has been a long and emotional journey. The first time I queried I got a lot of requests and encouragement, but no offers of representation. I started seeing a pattern in the feedback I was getting, so I took about two years to revise/rewrite and then started the query process again. I’m a pretty persistent person, so giving up was never an option for me. Of course, there were times when I felt discouraged and frustrated (like when I wrote ten different versions of chapter one and then ended up with something close to the original!), but I deeply believed in these characters and this story, and my perseverance eventually paid off!
What has been the most enjoyable — and the most difficult — part of your writing journey?
Farrah: Ugh, I love hearing success stories like this! I think publishing is a mix of perseverance, hard work, and luck. It’s subjective for SURE, but your persistence paid off!! I’m not an overnight success story, so the most difficult part for me was moving on from previous books I’d written. My agent and I went on submission with three different YA books before TWELVE STEPS sold. It’s hard not to feel like a talentless failure when you don’t get any bites, especially when you’re comparing yourself to everyone else (which, I know you shouldn’t do but I’M NOT PERFECT!!). But the most enjoyable part so far has been working with an enthusiastic, lovely publishing team who is passionate about this story. Okay, what piece of writing advice would you pass along to another debut author?

Ingrid: It looks like we are both good examples of persistence leading to success! I think your journey is super inspiring, and I understand all those fears and doubts. It’s so hard to keep moving forward, and especially hard to let go of characters you love. I’m working on a new book right now, but I still plan to go back and rework my old stories someday. Or at least mine them for gems ;) Hmm, writing advice...I think if someone asked, I would pass along the advice that I tried to follow when I was drafting: Don’t be afraid to write what scares you. That, and of course, never give up! Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? What did you read as a teen?
Farrah: Absolutely! Those are both VERY solid pieces of advice! I’d always dreamed of becoming a writer, but I NEVER thought it’d be possible for me to do it professionally! After college I sorta had the mindset of “OK, now I need to get a good job and make money” — but then realized getting a job doesn’t mean you have to stop writing entirely. It may be challenging to make the time, but it’s not impossible! As a teen, I was ALL OVER the Fearless series by Francine Pascal. Gaia was my idol. I also read a ton of Meg Cabot (love her Mediator series!) and Sarah Dessen. And, of course, the Harry Potter books.
Ingrid: You are absolutely right about making the time to write. Ooh, and I love all those authors you mentioned. Especially Sarah Dessen — I’m a huge fan of her books!
— Lightning Round —

Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

Farrah: I’m about 50/50! I need to know where the story is going and have a path to the ending, but I love pantsing and coming up with all the middle stuff on the fly! 

Ingrid: Pantser all the way. I never fully know what shenanigans my characters are going to get into until I start typing. 

Your must-have snack or drink when writing? 

Farrah: Coffee! Also, Pirate’s Booty, pomegranates, and cheese are my go-to snacks. 

Ingrid: Coffee, for sure, but it has to be the yummy kind filled with chocolate and sugar! 

Favorite non-writing hobbies? 

Ingrid: Hiking, running, and (lately) renovating my house. 

Farrah: Hiking for me, too! Also, hanging out with my dog (: and exploring new places in LA with friends. 

Ingrid: Oh yeah, I love hanging with my dog, too. He is the best! We should go hiking together with our dogs someday, Farrah! 

Here’s a VERY important final question: which Hogwarts house do you associate with? 

Farrah: I’ve been Pottermore sorted into Gryffindor, but I also feel strong loyalties toward Hufflepuff. 

Ingrid: Nice! I have been sorted into Ravenclaw, with Gryffindor a close second. But I honestly don’t think I’m brave enough for Gryffindor, so Ravenclaw it is! 
So, that's a wrap. For more information or to preorder books, check out our author websites:
Thanks for reading. I think we're off to grab some coffee now!

Thursday, February 15, 2018


I started this year with two and half weeks of flu and sinus havoc, so I'm off to a slow reading start. But I did squeeze in one book. I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it was so so inspiring. It's all about giving yourself permission to be creative. I wanted to take a highlighter to half of it.


I was sick at the beginning of the year too, but that actually gave me more time to read, haha, because I was too exhausted to do pretty much anything else. My first book of 2018 was STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman, which was a really thoughtful story about anxiety and art and family, and becoming who you are. Because a lot of it is character-driven and internal, it reminded me a little of ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins.

Then I read THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING by Erin Chack, a collection of personal essays about life and love (and cancer) in the author's late teens and early twenties. These stories are so funny, and heartfelt, and clever, and well-written! I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from Chack in the future.

I just finished HERE WE ARE NOW by Jasmine Warga, and I loved it so much. It's a deceptively simple story on the surface, but then underneath it's this beautiful messy love letter to music, and to immigrants, and to the natural ups and downs of relationships of all kinds. Also, Jasmine is so good at narrative voice. And I absolutely adored the Lena/Julian chapters.


Back in December I was feeling so pumped for 2018 — my DEBUT YEAR, AHHHH! — that I decided to set a goal for myself to read at least 40 books. That's double what I read last year, and it means I have to read more than three books per month! I'm off to a good start, so hopefully I can keep it up.

In January I read FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway - a wonderful character-driven novel about family, love, and growing up. SEVEN ALONE by Honore Morrow - this true story about seven siblings on the Oregon Trail was my fave when I read it as a 5th grader. Inspired by Kristan's pioneer book last month, I found a used copy of SEVEN ALONE on Amazon. Guess what? I love it just as much 30 years later! GIRLS ON THE LINE by Jennie Liu - you MUST check out this upcoming novel (out Fall 2018) about two orphaned girls in China making their way to adulthood as they dodge bride traffickers and family planning regulators. Heart-wrenching! THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli - I really enjoyed the sibling relationship aspect of this book, even more than the fun love story threads. And...I'm halfway through ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell - more on that next month!


This month I've been reading all things Holly Black. THE CRUEL PRINCE was compulsively good so I, of course, went back to the original "folk" trilogy to see which details I'd missed. With TITHE and IRONSIDE now swirling around my imagination, I'm cracking open VALIANT.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Hi guys, I'm so excited to "officially" share my good news here at We Heart YA!! Here's how it all happened:

Six years ago, I started writing a contemporary young adult book about an honors student who finds herself trapped in a dangerous life with her addict mother and a ruthless drug dealer. In October of 2016, a wonderful literary agent fell in love with my manuscript :) Six month after that, the story sold to a publishing house (yay!). And a few short months from now, my little book baby will be released into the wilds of the world (here's a link to prove it's not a dream).

My road to publication has been long and twisty, full of detours and potholes. And the journey didn't just start six years ago; it really started back in the 80s, when I was barely a young adult myself, pecking away on a dinosaur of a computer and writing my first novel. A lot of living and learning happened between then and now. Many, many dominoes fell into place to get me from there to here. And this past year has been nothing short of a dream come true. But it has also been a roller coaster ride, full of excitement and anxiety, exhilaration and terror. I know I'm not alone in this, so I'm planning to share a few articles about my experiences leading up to my (eeeep!) official pub date of April 3, 2018!

Next month I'll talk about what inspired the idea for the book as well as details about my publishing journey. But for now, I'd simply like to introduce you to Andrea -- my proud, beautiful-inside-and-out protagonist (hopefully someday she'll forgive me for torturing her) -- and her story, ALL OUT OF PRETTY...  
All Out of Pretty - Creston Books - 4.3.18
Sixteen-year-old Andrea Hathaway knows what it's like to be pretty. Thanks to her gorgeous, drug-addicted mother, she also knows where pretty can lead...

When things with her mom's boyfriend take a darker turn than she can bear, Andrea devises a plan to save herself. But freedom may cost her everything—and everyone—she cares about.  

Check it out on: 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

WE COME APART by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

Dual POV novel-in-verse... I look forward to Sarah's latest projects each time. If you haven't checked her out, you should! Much deserved hype.


Last year or the year before, I chose her debut THE ACCIDENT SEASON as my favourite, and this one has made it into my top three this year. Moira's books are firmly an insta-buy.


This book is so many things that it's hard to put into words. So glad that I picked it up and, in a way, it's still doing its story-thing in my mind like it's stuck on a loop in the background of my other brain processes. I don't love this book like other books. It's not feel-good or romantic. I love it because it's a truth discovered and it's all the good and the bad mixed up. I love it because it's powerful and sharply beautiful. Truth is beauty.


Darker and even more clever than Bardugo's first trilogy, but set in the same Grisha universe, these two books are about a group of young criminals who take on an impossible heist. In addition to wondering whether or not they would be able to pull off the job -- and if so, HOW -- I also completely fell in love with the characters, particularly Nina, Mattias, and Inej. What a perfect mix of humor and heart, tragedy and triumph.

FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway

I zipped through this emotional family drama about three siblings adopted into different families. It feels a bit like a show you might watch on ABC Family (now called Freeform), or maybe sort of a YA version of This Is Us. I'm a sucker for stories about family secrets, and I also have a soft spot these days for stories about pregnancy and motherhood; those are just a couple of the many issues that Far From the Tree manages to touch on.

SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys 

Another amazing read by one of my favorite authors. The story is told in alternating first-person accounts by four refugees whose paths cross in late WWII. They end up on a ship together, fleeing for safety from encroaching Russian forces. Their stories, told with poignancy and lyricism, don't shy away from the brutalities of war and the desperation that causes people to do both the unthinkable and the heroic.

GEM AND DIXIE by Sara Zarr

S​ara Zarr's latest release centers on two sisters who find their dad's bag of drug money and must decide what to do with it. This book has everything I love--family drama, emotional tension, characters trying to find and accept themselves, an amazing setting (Greater Seattle), and a satisfying but realistic ending. Bravo!


I dove into this book not really knowing much about it. Well, it was brutal and savage and utterly amazing. Alex Craft is the MC who takes down anyone who hurts the innocent. She calls herself vengeance, and that's pretty fitting. FOTS is not an easy read; it tackles issues like rape, violence, and revenge in an unflinching and complex way. It's an important book, but one that isn't preachy. You can't help but feel everything when lurking inside these pages. 

CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber

I am so in love with this world. This book captured my imagination more than any story has in a long time. Every twist and turn caught me by surprise, and I loved not being able to guess what was coming next.


I wanted to live in Lazlo’s dreamscape. Laini is so good at merging the strange and the beautiful. And the cultures were so rich and vivid.

LIESL AND PO by Lauren Oliver

So creepy and magical. This explored the foggy space between life and death, and I loved that.

Book that we are ALL most looking forward to in 2018

ALL OUT OF PRETTY by Ingrid Palmer

Dude, one of our own is getting published. Of COURSE we're all on the edge of our seats, eagerly awaiting the day we can get our hands on a copy! We have read AOOP -- many times, many versions -- and every time, we find something new to love.

Ing, you're so talented, and we're so proud of you. <3
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Autumn passes us by way too fast, and we seem to get less of it every year. Despite the brevity of the season, we still managed to fit some fall reads.

Here is everything we read in September, October, and November:


This month I read Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, which involved time travel and the Scottish highlands, and I loved it. Then I finally finished off The School for Good and Evil series with The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani. Then I read Foxheart by Claire Legrand. I actually read two nonfiction books (unusual for me): The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō (twice) and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.


I'm in the middle of TO STAY ALIVE, a gripping novel in verse about the mid-1800s journey west to California in search of a better life. Specifically, it is a fictionalized account of the infamous Donner party, although the story is told from the point of view of a different family. To be honest, I don't have a particular interest in the subject, but I loved Skila Brown's previous novel in verse, CAMINAR. (And, full disclosure, she and I share an agent.) Halfway through, I've flagged several poems and lines that struck me, and I'm haunted by the hardship these pioneers are enduring. And I haven't even gotten to the cannibalism yet! So far it's just the beauty and brutality of Mother Nature.


Oooh, I'm intrigued by the book Kristan is reading. Minus the cannibalism, I've always loved pioneer stories. Hmm, perhaps that's why I ended up migrating west, too! While compiling my own Fall reading list, I realized I'm still listening to a ton of audio books--in fact, almost all of them are from audible :). Over the past few months, I've consumed the following: BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate, EMERALD GREEN: THE RUBY RED SERIES by Kerstin Gier, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand, UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES by Louise Gornall, and THE ORPHAN'S TALE by Pam Jenoff. I'm currently listening to THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (and loving it!) and am also reading fellow debut 18-er Demetra Brodsky's ARC of DIVE SMACK, which so far is incredibly smart and intense ... I can't wait to find out how it ends!


Ooh, THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES is one of my picks for the Book-A-Day Advent Calendar that I put together for the school where I teach. Can't wait to read it! At the moment, I'm reading MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu and THE ODYSSEY translated by Emily Wilson (who is the first woman to do so, by the way) but this autumn I've read THE FIFTH SEASON by NK Jemisin, THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE, THUG, NOUGHTS AND CROSSES and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


This month I read Caraval by Stephanie Garber, which was amazing!!!! It's my favorite thing that I've read so far this year. I entirely loved it. And then I read Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser, and I loved that too. It had a great atmosphere. I've also started The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova.


I'm currently reading about German circus performers during WWII (fascinating!) in The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff. Earlier this month I read The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (haunting and fabulous and un-put-down-able) and When Dimple Met Rishi, which I loved from the first paragraph. Also, bonus: I got to meet Sandhya Menon at a book event in Denver and chat with her about Dimple and all things writing!


I'm so jealous of you guys, with all your reading, and especially Ingrid meeting Sandhya Menon! I'm still working my way through Becky Wallace's SKYLIGHTER, the sequel to STORYSPINNER, which I loved. My August was super busy, though, with extended travel, so I'm hopeful and excited to do more reading in September!


This month I finished THE GIRL OF INK AND STARS by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, which was so lovely and enjoyable. I would have devoured this book as a pre-teen so get thee to a bookstore, oh young of heart. I also read a couple of addictive contemporaries UNCONVENTIONAL by Maggie Harcourt and WING JONES by Katherine Webber. I'm still meditating on the latter because I've started running. If you don't know me, this is one giant leap for lazy-kind. At present, I am stuck in to THE FIFTH SEASON and bowing down to its genius.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

about us

Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

We Heart YA's favorite books »

ya diversity book club

© 2011 All words & images above are the creation/property of We Heart YA unless otherwise credited. Powered by Blogger.

have a heart

We Heart YA