Meet YA author, Rachel Coker, wordsmith of Interrupted: Life Beyond Words and Chasing Jupiter

Wow, what a week it’s been.  We’ve met some amazing YA authors and been introduced to some really spectacular reads.  I hope you all have enjoyed meeting these fantastic authors and talking to them, and adding their books to your Must Read lists.  Please give a round of applause to everyone who participated.  It’s been loads of fun.

Today is the last day of the YA Author Blog Takeover and I have a wonderful surprise for you.  Rachel Coker is the author of the historical YA novel that is taking the world by storm:  Interrupted:  Life Beyond Words.  See what some reviewers are saying:

“A feel-good story for both heart and soul.” ~ Kirkus Review

” An unpredictable and engrossing tale of how grief, faith and romance collide within the heart of a girl, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words is quite an achievement – and teen novelist Rachel Coker is an author to watch.” ~ USA Today

“Coker writes an emotionally compelling and psychologically nuanced tale. The plot has some weak spots: Allie manages to overhear not one but two crucial incidents that give her unexpected information, and some of her character development late in the story is abrupt. But the historical context is an engaging narrative frame. Coker is one to watch.’ ~ Publishers Weekly Review

And what is even more amazing is the author is only sixteen years old.   *Gasp*  I know, right?

So, without any further introductions, I hand over my blog to the über-talented, awe-inspiring, Rachel Coker.  Be prepared to have your heart and soul touched by an angel.

I’ve always loved YA Fiction. Maybe that came from being an overly mature child, or maybe it was the result of the enormous pile of high-school reading list books I always plowed through during summer breaks. When I look back on the books that inspired me to write, it was always the YA literature that had the biggest impact. And, as a teenager, I still find myself relating to the stories of young people in my favorite books.

Yep, you read that right. I’m a teenager. Sixteen. And, believe it or not, I’m also a YA author. My first novel, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words, was published with Zondervan in March. It’s not easy to be a YA author, but it is honestly the funnest, most rewarding job I could ever imagine.

I never set out to be an author of any sort, though. Two years ago, my life pretty much matched that of any other fourteen-year-old girl. My world revolved around schoolwork and babysitting and, oh yeah ,I wrote. Being a writer was never a huge emphasis, actually. It was more of a secret hobby. A way to let out my feelings and thoughts in private. In my stories, I created characters that were just like me and that related to my life circumstances. They were teens, too, who struggled with the same emotions of excitement, fear, joy, and confusion.

I wish I had an amazing, motivational, inspiring publication story to share with you all, but the truth is I just don’t. I always joke that I sort of stumbled into the lap of Zondervan. I did my fair share of praying, obviously, and clumsily made my way through the querying process. I literally Googled “Christian literary agents” and sent emails to about fifteen well-respected individuals. It should come as no surprise to you that every single one of them flat-out rejected me—except for one. I have no idea what Bill Jensen saw in little fourteen-year-old me, but for some reason he decided to sign my book, and within a few weeks I had a publishing deal with Zondervan.

Sometimes I still feel overwhelmed when I think about the responsibility of being a signed author with an established publishing company. And there are definitely days when I want to pull my hair out and scream, “How am I supposed to survive getting my driver’s license and passing Spanish and writing another stupid novel before the end of the year???”

But then I sit back and think of what an amazing opportunity I have been given. To write to teens. These in-between years are so crazy and emotional and overwhelming, and we need good examples to ground us. I know that my own perspective has been very much shaped by the books I have read and characters I have loved.

As a teen myself, I see YA fiction as a God-given chance to make a difference in another teen’s life. I may never get to meet that reader personally, but I can still encourage them. Through the characters I create and the values I share through my writing, I may have an impact on someone’s life that I’ll never even know about.

My second novel, Chasing Jupiter, is coming out this December. The storyline revolves around a teenage girl growing up in 1969 who feels her family is misunderstood and thought of as freaks, just because they’re a little eclectic. How many teens feel the same way in real life and, just like Scarlett in Chasing Jupiter, are struggling to keep their family and life together in the midst of unbelievable turmoil and confusion? Or how many are suffering like Allie in my first novel, Interrupted, with the blow of losing a parent or loved one, or being thrust into an uncomfortable situation that they have no desire for?

The teen years are so confusing and sticky. Take it from someone who knows. 😉 But what we have to remember as YA authors is to write books that will give teens answers. That will give them hope. That will remind them that they’re not alone and that they have a voice.

To be an author is a huge responsibility. But it’s also something that should make you excited and eager. Every time I receive a letter or an email from a teen that was touched by my book or story, it brings a huge smile to my face. Because that is what we are here to do. To inspire, encourage, and give answers to teens. And I hope that the older I grow, I’ll just keep loving it even more!

Isn’t she lovely?  I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I was when Rachel agreed to take part on my YA Blog Takeover.  She has inspired me in so many ways and I’m looking forward to reading even more books by this very talented young author.  She is going places.  Please take a moment to introduce yourself and leave a message for Rachel.  She’s such a sweet young lady and so easy to talk to.

You can find Rachel at the following links and don’t forget to add INTERRUPTED: life beyond words and her new novel, CHASING JUPITER, to your TBR lists.


Rachel’s bio:  Sixteen-year-old author Rachel Coker has a passion for great books, and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her first YA novel, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words, was published with Zondervan in March 2012, and her second book, Chasing Jupiter, is due to be released in December 2012. When she is not writing, playing the piano, or hiding behind a camera, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and serving her Lord and Savior. You can visit her at her blog.

Interrupted: A Life Beyond WordsDescription:  Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn’t shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie’s heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.

Description (from Rachel’s blog):

Chasing Jupiter takes place in the summer of 1969, and it revolves around the story of sixteen-year-old Scarlett Blaine, who is growing up in small-town Georgia with her quirky and dysfunctional family. Scarlett has a younger brother named Cliff, who is definitely the oddball of the group. Strange, sometimes moody, and always entertaining, Cliff definitely keeps Scarlett on her toes. Adding even more color to the picture is her eccentric grandfather, Grandpop Barley, whose world revolves around red ties and peanut butter. And then there’s Juli, Scarlett’s beautiful and rebellious older sister, who is doing everything she can to cause strains in the family. Together, they make up quite the loony bunch, and stick out like sore thumbs in the community.

But what starts off as a bright, fun-loving summer quickly down spirals into one of Scarlett’s biggest challenges yet. As the pressures of life and the demands of the outside world start to have their toll on her family, she must learn that protecting and cherishing those she loves is the most important job she has. Scarlett finds herself tottering on the brink of childhood and adulthood, afraid and uncertain about family, love, and the future. But the events that unfold that summer are big enough to change her life forever.

Expected Release Date for Chasing Jupiter:  December, 2012

I want to give a special thank you and big hugs to all of you, my readers, for stopping by and taking the time to meet my guests.  It means a lot to me and to them.  I hope to see you around and stay tuned.  There might just be another blog takeover in December.  *wink*

Also, stay tuned for more author interviews/tours coming in August.  Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and never stop reaching for the stars.

Meet YA author, Jamie Ayres, ink-slinger of 18 Things

 Hi everyone! Thanks for dropping by the YA Blog Takeover.   Today we have the crazy, off-beat, simply irresistible, Jamie Ayres.  Yaaaayyyy!  If you’ve missed any of the previous YA author blog events, you can catch up here, here, here, here, here, here and here. (that’s a lot of catch up)!  🙂

Okay, Jamie, now that I got everyone’s attention, take it away!

Hi, ya’ll *waves* Big shout out to Jenny for hosting me! Let’s get this party started . . .

My name is Jamie, my closest friends call me Jaim-O, hubby calls me Sporty Spice, daughters call me Big Mama (I try to get them to change that to “Hot Mama” but they said nobody would believe that), my students call me Mrs. Ayres or Mrs. A—I’ll basically answer to anythingJ

I’ve been blogging for two years and made the transition from Wannabe YA Writer to Bona Fide Published Author just last month. It all happened through a contest at the end of May—so if you don’t think contests are worth it, pay close attention. The contest was a call to submit our query + first 500 words to YA acquisitions editor Krystal Wade of Curiosity Quills, whom blogger buddy Sharon Bayliss had just signed a contract with. I thought, what the heck? I’ll start my summer off right with a contest and hopefully gather some valuable feedback. Everyone rocked with their comments and I got a request for the first 3 chapters from Krystal. I was excited but also kinda disappointed I didn’t get a full request. *She later told me she wasn’t going to request it at all but liked the changes I’d made based on the comments* I sent Krystal the manuscript on a Saturday morning and when I checked my email on Monday, I had a message from her requesting my full!! I got one of those really good feelings but remained only cautiously optimistic until another 2 days later, I received an offer for a publishing contract!

My first novel, 18 Things, will be published later this year as part of the My So-Called Afterlife trilogy. I didn’t set out to write YA paranormal love stories, but I guess that’s what I enjoy reading the most so that’s what flowed out of me. I love coming-of-age stories . . . that time in our lives when we’re figuring out who we are and often falling in love for the first time and kinda getting away from the watchful eye of the parentals and the vulnerability that stems from all of that. Makes for great writing material!

It’s in high school when I really discovered I wanted to be a writer. Teaching was tugging on my heartstrings too so that’s what I majored in, with the intent to write in my ‘spare’ time. Well, that’s the thing. When you’re in college, you don’t realize you won’t have any spare time when you grow-up. So that’s why it took me until the summer of 2009 to start this journey. That’ s when my wonderful husband started snoring and keeping me up at night. Since I couldn’t sleep, I wrote! I penned two cringe worthy novels and received 55 rejections until I really honed what 18 Things is today . . . guess the saying is true: Third time’s a charm! Failure was never an option for me. I have two young daughters and students (past & present) looking up to me. If I give up on my dreams, how can I turn around and tell them, “Dream big or go home!”?

I’m supposed to leave you with some parting tidbits of wisdom (hmm . . . perhaps Jenny forgot who she was talking to, lol). I’ll keep this simple with my top 5; otherwise my convoluted thoughts will take over: Be yourself (variety is the spice of life, right?) Never give up (you never fail until you quit—some smart person said that—not me)! Trust your gut (instinct is untaught ability—another smart guy named anonymous said that—not me)! Don’t stress (your novel/blog will still be there after you take off a day, a week, or even a month—take care of you first. Thanks to Jenny for being a good example on this one). And believe every rejection in life just means God has something better planned for you down the road

J ~Cheers!

Aww, Jamie, thanks for the mention.  I love your upbeat voice and can’t wait to read 18 Things.  I have to say, your method of landing a publishing contract was a bit out of the ordinary.  It doesn’t happen to most authors, so big congrats for that!  It just goes to show that every aspiring author needs to explore every avenue in writing from contests to blogs.  Who knows.  You may end up in shoes similar to Jamie’s.  You just have to try.

I would love to post a picture of Jamie’s novel but because it is soooo new, the publisher hasn’t released one yet.  I can, however, give you a nice little exciting blurb.

Description for 18 Things:  

Can eighteen things save a life? Olga Gay Worontzoff thinks her biggest problems are an awful name (after her grandmothers of course) and not attending prom with Conner, her best friend and secret crush since kindergarten. Then Conner is killed in a freak accident and Olga feels responsible. The sarcastic, nerdy girl who never missed a day of school is suddenly lost and unable to deal with the emotional pain. When she downs an entire bottle of pain pills, her parents force her into counseling. There, her therapist writes a prescription in the form of a life list titled 18 Things. Eighteen quests to complete the year of her eighteenth birthday. Olga enlists the help of her friends and becomes a catalyst for healing in their own lives as they eagerly offer suggestions. Alls she has to do is fire-walk, try out for the cheerleading squad, break a world record, and err . . . go on her first date. Good thing Nate, a new hottie in town, enters her life with perfect timing. He brings the fun factor to her list and helps her discover the beauty and strength inside herself, then complicates things by falling in love with her. Maybe it’s time to put into practice the lessons her list has taught her. Just as she’s finally embracing the joys of YOLO, her therapist reveals a big secret and Olga’s world is shaken. In the past year it took eighteen remarkable things to change a life, but nothing she believed about her mission is true. Now she doesn’t just risk losing her true soul-mate forever, she risks losing her very soul. There’s only one thing she knows for certain. Her choice will affect their future for all eternity.

Doesn’t that sound like a great read!  Please free to leave a comment here for Jamie or at any one of the following links.  I’m sure she would love to hear from you and chat up her new book!


New Author to look out for – Heather Burch

Guys, this series looks amazing!  If you or anyone you know is a fan of YA fantasy fiction, this series will fit right in.  I have got to get her on my blog when the book comes out.

Check out her website and read all about the Halflings.  I am stoked and ready to buy.