Welcome to day 3 of the Peace YA/NA Blog Tour! Today I'll be sharing an interview with author Caroline Andrus and a review of her young adult contemporary novella Peace in Flames.
I've known Caroline for about five years now. She is the head of acquisitions at Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (imprint of Melange Books) and does the majority of the cover art for their titles. She has personally selected all of the books and stories I've published through them and done all of the cover art for my books.
I knew that her dream was to have her own work published eventually, and she has been working hard to write her own material. We both had stories published in the Satin Romance anthology Second Chance for Love, and hers was one of my favorite stories in the collection. So, it wasn't a big surprise to find that I enjoyed her new novella Peace in Flames. I'm looking forward to reading her other book Summer of Peace as well.
I'll start with the interview, so you can all get to know her a bit better. Stick with this blog post, though, because I do have a review below, links to get your copy of the book, AND there's a rafflecopter with prizes!!!
D. G.: How did you get involved with the Peace novella series?
Caroline: In fall of 2016, author S.H. Pratt came to myself and two other writers via Facebook group chat with an idea for a multi-author novella series. She had written a contemporary romance novella set in a fictional town in Montana called Peace. She asked if we would be interested in being a part of this project. I've never done anything quite like this before. I'd never even written anything as long as a novella worth publishing. I thought this could be a really great challenge for me. So, I signed on.
D. G.: Did they give you parameters for your story? Character names? A bible of the other stories? I saw on the website there is a map of the town.
Caroline: Most of the guidelines were voted upon by the members who initially agreed to participate in the series. There were a few that S. H. Pratt set in stone from the beginning, such as no scene breaks, no F-bombs, and no graphic intimate scenes. (Behind closed doors was totally okay, just nothing "on camera".) And, of course, every novella title had to have the word Peace in it.
Each participating author created their characters and listed them in a group file on Google Drive. If one author wanted to use a character that another author created, they just had to talk to the original author to make sure they were portraying the character correctly. As each story was written, more locations were added to the town map. I personally created Generic Eric's Sandwich Shoppe and Soda Fountain as well as The Craft Corner. Eric's plays a big part in Peace in Flames and both locations show up numerous times in my follow up story, Summer of Peace.
D. G.: Are there characters in your novella that overlap in the other books?
Caroline: Some stories have more character overlap than others. In Summer of Peace there's a cameo by Jim Harwood, who is the star of Love in Peace by Krysi Foster. Dray Parker appears in both of my stories as well as numerous others, he's a sheriff's deputy created by S. H. Pratt. I also name drop Kadaisha in both my stories. She's the celebrity pop star alter-ego of Lynn Dyer who stars in Peace and Harmony by Lisa Ann. I honestly don't know if my main characters appear in any of the other stories! (I haven't had a chance to read them all yet!) I know the waitress at Eric's, Tammy, makes an appearance in at least one other novella in the series.
D. G. : Peace in Flames can be read as a stand-alone. The website suggests reading the books in order of publication. Does that make a difference? Are there things I would know more about if I read the whole series?
Caroline: The books truly do stand on their own. We suggest reading them in order simply because there may be minor spoilers to the previous books. The only spoilers in mine are events from Peace in Flames are alluded to in Summer of Peace, but nothing is spelled out. We all really tried to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
The benefit of reading the whole series would really be to have a clearer view of this little Montana town.
D. G. : You have second Peace book releasing. Tell me about that. Will we see these characters again? I really love Liam.
Caroline: Yes! Summer of Peace is my follow up to Peace in Flames. Flames takes place during Valerie's senior year and focuses on her and Liam. Fast forward about eight months and it's the summer after graduation. Summer of Peace is Valerie's best friend JoJo's story. JoJo is featured in Flames, but in Summer she gets to shine. While Valerie is preparing to leave for college at the end of summer and spending most of her free time with Liam, JoJo isn't quite sure what she's doing with her life. Add in the return of Valerie's older brother, and the one guy JoJo has been in love with since boys stopped having cooties, and things get interesting. Summer is a much more straightforward romance. I've labeled it New Adult, but honestly, it's right on that edge where it could be YA or it could be NA. It is clean, though, so upper YA readers could totally read it.
D. G.: In your author note at the end, you wrote that you didn’t intend to write about sexual harassment. At what point did you decide to take the dark turn with Chris’s character. That scene is terrifying, by the way.
Caroline: I wish I had the answer to that. Chris is definitely a dark character, he has a lot of issues going on. I think he has a narcissistic personality and no moral compass. He's a big bully and nobody saw him taking things as far as he did. I think as I started to write the events, I just thought, here's this guy who is used to getting everything he wants. Throw some alcohol in him and how far would he really take things?
Is it wrong that I'm glad the scene is terrifying? It was very emotional to write. I second guessed everything, but if other readers feel the same, I think I've done it justice.
D. G.: Nope, not wrong to feel that way at all. The theme of my blog is revision, so share a little about your revision process for this book? Were there any scenes you had to rewrite? Is there an editor for the series? Do you use beta readers?
Caroline: This particular book didn't have a whole lot of rewrites. I actually started writing this one, got stuck, then wrote an entire 20k draft of Summer, hated that draft and scrapped the entire thing, then went back to what I had started for Flames and just wrote. The only thing I remember going back in the end and adding were a few details that I'd left out that really needed to be there for the whole arson-angle.
Each author was responsible for their own editor for their book. My editor is always Nancy Schumacher from Melange Books. Before the book even gets to her it goes through beta readers and multiple reads on my own. For Peace in Flames I think I had five readers. I received some really good insight from those beta reads. I specifically put a call out for a sensitivity reader who had been sexually assaulted herself. I didn't feel comfortable putting a book of this nature out without hearing that opinion first. She was extremely helpful. One of my readers also gave me a list of "watch words" - words that are weak and can easily be changed to make my writing stronger. Wow, that list has made a world of a difference in all of my writing since Peace in Flames!
D. G.: Nancy Schumacher is the best! She just finished proofreading my newest book. You are a book cover artist. Did you do your own book cover? Do you do book covers for others in the series. (I did notice that your chapter headings use the same font as the covers of my Juniper Sawfeather novels).
Caroline: I did design both my covers for the Peace Series. I also designed the cover for Peace of Work by Rachel Walter, and Peace and Harmony by Lisa Ann. (Rachel and I worked together to create a great cover, Lisa told me exactly what she wanted and I did it.)
We were given specifications for our covers so that text-wise they were all uniform.
I actually didn't even have the Peace font (which is called Digory Doodles) until I got involved with this series, and it looked so good when I tried it on the Juniper Sawfeather novels I couldn't not use it for those!
D. G.: You are the head of acquisitions at Fire and Ice YA Books, head cover designer for Melange Books and its imprints, you hold two jobs, and you have a family. How do you make time to write? What do you have to sacrifice?
Caroline: I write very, very, very slowly. Most of Peace in Flames and the first draft of Summer of Peace (which, as I mentioned above, was scrapped entirely!) was written last summer during my kids swim lessons. I had about half an hour while kid #2 was in her lesson, then I had about another 45 minutes during kid #1's lesson. At that time, I would sit with my little Bluetooth keyboard in the stands overlooking the pool and write using Dropbox on my Kindle. I've since moved to writing on my iPhone using Google Docs. Sometimes I use my Bluetooth keyboard, sometimes I just type on the screen. Whichever is most convenient. I also make use of downtime at work when there's absolutely nothing else to do (or when I've been working my butt off and have earned a break!) If I’m waiting for an appointment (doctor, dentist, orthodontist, etc.) I'll pull up Google Docs and write on my phone. When I'm caught up or, dare I say ahead with my work for Melange, I'll "slack" a little and spend some time working on my own books. I'm trying to train myself to not feel guilty for working on my own projects. Fortunately for me, I'm not the kind of person who enjoys going out and doing things. My idea of a good time is a night home writing or reading. (Or binging Netfilx while doing work for Melange!)
D. G.: That's funny. I wrote the first draft of my YA novella Passing Notes during my daughter's swimming lessons. Many people ask me why I choose to publish with a small press instead of self-publishing. I often tell them it is because of my relationship with you and Nancy and the other Melange authors. There is definitely a feel of ‘family’ to this group. Why do you think authors should choose small indie presses as opposed to self-publishing? What do you see as the benefits.
Caroline: That's a great question! When you self-publish you are responsible for everything! You need to find a quality editor and pay them, you need to hire a cover artist and pay them, you need to do absolutely everything yourself. You're footing the bill outright and there's always a chance you'll never recoup that investment. When you work with a publisher, whether small-press like Melange or traditional, you're covered. They're going to take care of the cover art and editing. All you need to worry about is marketing. (HA! As if that's not enough work, am I right?!)
Some people have the funds available to hire everyone needed to publish a book. Others don't, and it's beneficial for them to give up a percentage of their book sales royalties. I don't think one way of publishing is right for everyone. Every author is different and has different needs.
I do think that working with a publisher does give you that awesome relationship with other people in the business, not only with the publisher but also with your fellow authors. You can definitely get that self-publishing, but you have to find them, they're not just thrown at you like with your publisher. (Melange has a great private Facebook group for both the staff and our authors where we invite all of our authors to ask questions and advice. I'm not sure if other publishing houses have this, but I personally love it!)
D. G.: As head of acquisitions for Fire and Ice YA Books, what’s on your MSWL right now? Do you have any advice for submitting authors?
Caroline: Omigosh! I'm so in love with YA contemporary romance right now, I can't get enough! It seems like we mostly get submissions for fantasy and paranormal, which is great and there's definitely a place for them, but I'd love to see something different. I'd also really love to see some more New Adult submissions.
If I had to make a wishlist, contemporary romance both YA and NA is at the top of the list. I'd also love to see more fairy tale re-imaginings and superheroes. My advice for submitting authors, no matter where you are submitting, is to make sure you're following the submissions guidelines for that particular house. If they want the first 3 chapters in an attachment (as we do), do not copy and paste it into the body of the email. There is nothing more annoying than trying to read in email. I send all of the submissions to my Kindle and read there. BUT, before you even GET to the point of submitting your manuscript, edit and revise. Then edit and revise again. Run it through spelling/grammar check. This is your first impression, don't be sloppy. Take pride in your work and show you're serious.
D. G.: Well, I've been working on a YA contemporary romance, so it sounds like I better get it finished. I also need to start reading Summer of Peace, because it sounds yummy!
Obsession and jealousy can be dangerous.
The Peace High School date auction is supposed to be fun, but Valerie Todd is dreading it. She knows who will win her date—Chris Burkeholder, the boy who’s been obsessed with her for years.
New in Peace, Liam Sloan doesn’t know that Chris is used to getting his way. When Liam outbids Chris for Valerie’s date in the auction, life gets more dangerous for the new couple.
Will Valerie and Liam survive Chris’ anger and jealousy?
My review of Peace in Flames
This is a short book packed with action. Caroline Andrus has written a novella that keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next. It starts out as a simple teen romance - new hot boy moves to a small town, and he's a bit mysterious. The local rich kid/stud has made his claim on Valerie, but she doesn't want him. Oh, but the book turns dangerous after this point, and the plot keeps you on the edge of your seat right to the end. I will admit, I got angry with Valerie for not coming forward about what happens to her. It's important to the plot, but in this time of "me too", I wanted her to nail the guy right away. I think this book is a great choice for people who have read Speak or Faking Normal and are looking for something else with a similar themes about teen sexual harassment. This novella is one of a series about the town of Peace, all written by different authors. I'm interested in learning more about this series as a whole and Caroline's follow-up novella Summer of Peace. I think the concept is fascinating. I recommend this book for readers 13 and older.
About The Author
Caroline Andrus was born and raised in the St. Paul suburbs where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and Henry McCoy—a wild cougar trapped in the body of a house cat.
She divides her time between writing, Facebook, designing, and managing her household. Since 2011 she has been second in command for indie press Melange Books. She is head of acquisitions for their YA imprint, Fire & Ice Young Adult books, as well as web designer, formatter, and head of their cover art department. In her minimal spare time she enjoys reading, rocking out to the radio, and binging TV shows on Netflix.
She is passionate about both reading and writing teen fiction, and is pretty sure she will forever be eighteen at heart.
You can find her online at:
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So, if you're not rushing off to grab a copy of one of her new books (as you should be) or prepping your YA or NA novel for submission to Fire and Ice YA Books, please take a moment to leave a comment below. You're also always welcome to browse through previous posts, sign up for my newsletter, or visit the other pages of my website. Thanks for visiting!
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.