Summer + Reading = Perfect Match

by Erin Fletcher

Happy summer, y’all! Okay, fine. It may not be the first official day of summer yet, but I’m writing this post with the windows open, a warm breeze blowing in, and birds chirping nearby, so a little early is okay, right? Good.

In my world, summer means lots of one thing: reading. In fact, I would argue that it’s the best season for reading.

I know what you’re thinking. But, Erin. Isn’t winter the best, when you can curl up with a blanket and a cat and a book and pretend the frigid temperatures and snow outside don’t exist?

Well…that is pretty great. But summer is better. Here’s why:

  • Vacation = Reading time. Whether you’re on summer break from school or getting some time off work (long weekends FTW!), all of those extra hours mean more time to spend between the pages of a book. Want to take an entire day to tackle your TBR list? Go for it. Stuck in the backseat of your family’s minivan on a cross-country road trip? Use the time to finish that book that’s been sitting by your bed for the past three months!
  • Waterside reading is the best. I’m lucky enough to have access to a pool and also live within driving distance of the ocean. Is there anything better than relaxing in a lounge chair in the sand with the soothing sound of ocean waves providing background noise while you read? No. No there is not. Especially if the book is by Sarah Dessen or another beach-writing author. Relaxing in a lounge chair by the pool is a close second, as evidenced by this picture from my first reading pool trip of the season:

  • There is nothing on TV. Literally nothing. No new episodes of Gossip Girl. The second season of 13 Reasons Why isn’t out yet. So unless you’re marathoning old episodes from HGTV or the Food Network (okay…maybe I spend a tiny bit of summer time doing that), you have a lot more prime-time hours available for books. Ditch the screens…at least until This is Us is back.
  • Summer reading programs are a thing! Check your local library! Many have programs for kids, teens, and adults. My library offers prizes just for reading or attending a library event. True story: Once in college my roommate and I participated in a summer reading program and won a gift card to a store called Yarn It! (exclamation point included). It was the coolest/nerdiest thing ever that led to a half-crocheted scarf and a good memory.

See? Summer really is the best for reading, and we’re just getting started.

What’s your favorite part about summer reading? What beach reads are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!

Throwback Thursday: Teen Romance Edition

For the June edition of “Ask the Sweethearts,” we’ll take a trip down Romance Memory Lane. But first, the announcements:

A huge congratulations to Erin Fletcher, whose All Laced Up has been named a finalist for the Young Adult Romance Writers of America’s Athena Award! And double congrats on the announcement of her sequel, Tied Up in You, coming in July!

Congratulations also to our May contest winner, Ann Marjory K, aka Villain Queen Extraordinaire. She was randomly selected to receive the Pampered Princess Prize Pack featuring a copy of Karole Cozzo’s new YA/NA romance, The Truth About Happily Ever After. Huge thanks to everyone who entered … may your summers be filled with the magic and love of your favorite fairy tales.

Now, for our June question: If Teen You had been the main character in a YA romance novel, what would her story line have been?

Stephanie Scott: Teen Stephanie typically had her eyes on the guy out of reach. As a freshman, my friends and I would pine after the seniors who worked in the school store before and after classes, and the grunge-loving guy we’d see come in for independent study art class. The out-of-reach guy is a fun trope in romance because it’s so relatable; it can be easy and safe to crush from afar. No risk of rejection if there’s no chance of actually getting together!

Darcy Woods: Teen Darcy was forever cursed with phrases in her yearbook that began with: “To a smart girl who always makes me laugh.” Turns out, very few guys wanted to ask the clever, funny girl to Homecoming. But then her freshman year, she discovered a boy who was hilarious, witty, and…wait for it — would sing Broadway show tunes in the car with her! Obviously, she was smitten. More than smitten, she was in LOVE. But her love was destined to be unrequited. Because as fate would have it, this amazing boy of her dreams was gay. So while Teen Darcy’s story line was a bit of a romantic tragedy, eventually, her HEA prevailed!

Robin Constantine: If Teen Robin had been a character in a romance novel, she would’ve always been on the lookout for a mysterious someone to sweep her off her feet, but in reality it was the guy she got along with easily — who made her laugh and who she could be totally real with, the one who was still around when the mysterious someone turned out to be a total flake — he was the one who held the key to her heart.

Linda Budzinski: I don’t think Teen Linda could ever actually have been the main character in a YA romance novel. She’d have made a great Fiercely Loyal Though Perpetually Lovelorn Best Friend. She had lots of crushes but no luck with any of them. If anyone were crazy enough to try to write her story, readers would have to be willing to stick with her through a very long and torturous series until Late-Twenties Linda finally meets an Amazing Guy and finds her HEA!

Karole Cozzo: Teen Karole believed that first love lasted forever — it was an easy enough ideal to hold onto, considering she dated her first boyfriend from 7th – 11th grade. When he broke up with her, the last person she thought would heal her broken heart was one of his best friends, whom she’d always had an “oil and water” relationship with. You can’t go wrong with the enemies-to-lovers trope when it comes to contemporary YA romance, and teen Karole’s story line certainly proved there’s something to be said for the particular butterflies that go along with starting to see someone you thought you couldn’t stand in a whole new way. Karole likes the trope so much … you just might see it in her next book. 😉

Erin Fletcher: If Teen Erin were a main character in a romance novel, her story line would have been a friends to lovers story. In those stories (which I love to read!), it’s usually obvious to everyone BUT the two friends that they should be together in a “more than friends” kind of way. I’m pretty sure that’s how everyone in my life felt about me and one of my best friends! For three years we maintained friendship before realizing what everyone else had known all along. It was a pretty great moment of realization, just like in romance novels! Better late than never, right?

What about you? What is/was your Teen You YA romance story line? Tell us in the comments…. xoxoxo

Contest: A Fairy Tale Summer

For our May contest, we’re celebrating Sweetheart Karole Cozzo’s May 16 release, The Truth About Happily Ever After.  In this sweet YA/NA romance, Alyssa works summers at a theme park playing the role of Cinderella and looking for her own fairy tale love story. Alyssa is a princess at heart, and nothing makes her happier than seeing the wide-eyed stares and smiles of the little girls who come through the park to meet her.

With summer just around the corner, we thought we’d ask: If you could portray any theme park character (in any type of theme park, real or imagined) for one whole summer, what would it be and why? The rules are simple:

  • Make sure you’re following us on Twitter.
  • Leave a comment below and let us know which character you’d choose and why.
  • Be sure to leave your Twitter handle at the end of your comment so we can reach you.

The contest closes May 31 at noon. We’ll choose a comment at random, and the winner will receive a pampered princess prize pack, including a copy of Karole’s book and some swoony swag!

Good luck! xoxoxo

Jaye Robin Brown and the “What If” Question

We are excited to welcome this month’s guest author, Jaye Robin Brown, whose novel GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT was published by Harper Teen in August 2016. It tells the story of Jo Gordon, the out lesbian daughter of a moderate evangelical minister, and what happens when her father marries for the third time and they move from Atlanta to small-town Northern Georgia. In Brown’s words, the novel is “a love story and a look at the sometimes conundrum of having faith and being queer.”


What gave you the idea to write this novel?
GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT came about because of a radio segment I heard about the insane wealth of some radio pastors. I thought, “What if one of those guys had a gay daughter? How would that go down?” And though I didn’t end up exploring the wealth aspect (my fictional pastor dad is successful but not obscenely so), I did explore the question of what happens if you’re a lesbian, but also a believer. Ideas often come that way to me. I’ll hear something on the news or in conversation, something as small as a sentence, and then an idea blooms. I try to pay attention and not miss those moments.

And what about your characters? Have any real-life people inspired them?
Absolutely. In GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, the love interest, Mary Carlson Bailey, has a twin brother nicknamed B.T.B. He is directly inspired by a former student of mine who was universally adored at the high school where I taught. Like my former student, B.T.B. has an intellectual disability that makes him much younger in years than his actual age of seventeen. I loved creating the true friendship between him and my main character, Joanna, as I saw a similar friendship play out in my art room between the student who inspired B.T.B. and another student.

In my first book, NO PLACE TO FALL, the love interest, Will McKinney, also was inspired by a former student. He (the student) was the much swooned-over crush of one of my art students, so I figured if he’s good enough for Savannah, he’s good enough to put in the book.

Do you have any tips for beginning writers?
Yes. First, read widely in your genre. You need to know what’s being published and how things are being written, and get a feel for story. Second, find critique partners. To this day, even with four published pieces under my belt, I cannot write without other eyes on the work. Third, don’t get trapped in a self-doubt spiral. Write it. Do the work. If you can’t make it good enough, then lower your standards. You cannot improve something that isn’t on the page. And fourth, have fun! Writing should be joyful — at least some of the time.

What was your biggest query mistake?
It wasn’t a YA query, but I dabbled with a few picture books and queried with one that I loved. The agent sent back an email that said he liked it and what else did I have. Silly me did not understand that meant more picture books and I sent him the middle grade novel I was working on. Needless to say, I didn’t hear back from him.

And you didn’t ask this, but my very first manuscript, which was a middle grade dog story, yep — I sent that out as a first draft to two different publishers. I was that fresh and naive to how the business worked, and also pretty over-confident. Ha!

If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be?
Funny you should ask! I’ve been in discussion with one of my former Pitchwars mentees about doing just that. But, if we’re looking at already published writers, I’m going to go with David Levithan for young adult or Jen Malone for middle grade, because both of them have done a number of awesome collaborative books and they could show me the ropes. It’s a definite writer bucket list item for me!

Ooh, great choices (and an opportunity for a shameless plug:  Jen Malone will be our July guest author)! So speaking of wildly talented writers, tell us about your most memorable fangirl moment. Who did you meet?
I was super excited when I found out I’d be doing a panel with Nina LaCour at the NOVA Teen Book Festival. Her books have been an instabuy for me since I read the first one. She is every bit as lovely and generous in person as I thought she would be. And she signed all my books 🙂

What book do you wish you wrote?
Um, duh. Harry Potter. It’d be nice to have that sort of career security as a writer. Plus, it’s genius.

Yeah … *pauses as we all daydream about a YA-romance-inspired theme park*Okay, then! Time for our speed round:

  • Morning glory vs. night owl: Morning glory
  • Wizards vs. vampires: Wizards
  • French fries vs. cookies: French fries
  • Heels vs. flats: Flats
  • Friday night vs. Sunday morning: Sunday morning

Thanks so much! Fans can keep in touch and follow here:

Contact * Twitter * Instagram

Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro to her friends, has been many things in her life — jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher — but recently she’s taken the plunge into full-time writer life. She’s a Southerner at heart, by way of Alabama, then Atlanta, and for many years just outside of Asheville, but now she’s moved north for a bit of city living. Boston, baby! And though she’d like to think brownstones might find a way into her fiction, she figures kudzu will always be what comes to her imagination first.

Her debut young adult novel, NO PLACE TO FALL, came out in the fall of 2014 from Harper Teen. It’s about dreams, singing, friendship, love, betrayal, family, and mistakes. It’s also a love song to small town girls and mountain music. In April 2016, a companion novella, WILL’S STORY: A NO PLACE TO FALL NOVELLA, released from Epic Reads Impulse, a digital-only imprint, and follows Will McKinney’s side of the story. GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT is her sophomore novel.

Getting the Call

by Stephanie Scott

Imagine this: You’re sitting at your desk at work, plugging away at the daily grind. Your phone rings. Not your work phone, but your cell phone. A number flashes with a non-local area code. It could be a wrong number or a salesperson trying to pitch you a “free” cruise (hint: they’re never free). Maybe a family member you haven’t heard from in a long time. Or … it could be a call you’ve been waiting on. Your heart picks up pace. It could be the call.


Publishing is filled with waiting, but occasionally, an important call can break up the waiting. One call and everything can change. Writers often dream about those moments. And like much of life, often those calls do not go as we think they will.

Call #1: The Agent
I was waiting on a dozen or so literary agents who had requested full and partial manuscripts from several rounds of online pitch contests. It was the worst part of winter, with daily gray Midwest skies and continual cold.

One morning, on the way to work, I cracked the screen on my cell phone, barely six weeks after buying it. I’d had my phone out of my purse during the drive to work because my mom was driving that morning through the snow to see my grandmother in her nursing home. We’d had few years of ups and downs with my grandmother’s health, but this time, it truly was the end. I was so nervous she’d call and I’d miss it, the phone was on my lap. When I got out of the car, it flew face first onto the cold pavement, cracking. My grandmother ended up passing away the next day.

This was the day my now-agent called. Actually, sent me an email. She said she wanted to plan a call — the call? — but New York City was about to be hit by a huge snowstorm and the whole city was shutting down. Could we plan the call for Monday?

None of this was how I’d daydreamed a special call would play out. I had the weekend to think over what happened with my grandmother and talk with my family. By the time Monday rolled around, I wouldn’t say things were back to normal, but I had more focus to think about my writing, and about the call. My emotions had been through the wringer, but it was great to have something to feel happy about.

Call #2: The Book Contract
When I got my first book contract, I always envisioned jumping for joy and spazzing out. Instead, I heard the news through email and felt rather calm. I had questions. It never really sunk in until months later when I signed the publishing contract.

Call #3: The RITA Awards
My most recent call experience is probably closest to what I’d always imagined. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America and have absolutely dreamed about what it would be like to be a finalist in their awards — the Golden Heart for unpublished manuscripts and the RITA for published books. I’d struck out twice with the Golden Heart, but this past year I was excited to be able to submit to the RITA for the first time as a published author. Writers submit their books to be considered, so there’s no second guessing whether you are being considered. Finalists are notified by phone calls from members of the board. We all know when call day is.

I work from home the majority of my time, but on this day I was in the office at my day job. The phone lit up with a California number. I’d already convinced myself earlier that morning that since this was my first book and my first time entering the RITAs, the odds were not in my favor. I tentatively answered the phone.

The caller was a published author and RWA board member calling to congratulate me: Alterations had been named a finalist for Best First Book. I was speechless and shocked. One question I had to ask: Are you sure?

She was sure.

It’s hard to predict how you’ll act when an important call comes through. Have you ever received an exciting call? Tell us in the comments!