Sutton sets a high bar in her YA debut, challenging readers to empathize with a protagonist who has no emotions. Elizabeth Caldwell’s best friend is dying of cancer, one of the cutest boys in school loves her, and her alcoholic father beats her—but Elizabeth doesn’t care about any of it. Her only meaningful interactions are with the Emotions, immortal personifications of the feelings she can’t experience. With them, she does not have to pretend, as she must when she tries to muster believable social responses. The only Emotion who hasn’t given up on her is beautiful, passionate Fear. He’s not above tormenting her with graphic hallucinations, but he’s also intent on uncovering the mystery behind her coldness. Then the quest turns from a private parlor game into a matter of life or death for Elizabeth. Sutton’s plot unfolds slowly, and some scenes may unsettle more sensitive readers—neither Fear nor Elizabeth’s father pulls his punches—but most teens will find this a haunting and fresh psychological thriller. Ages 13–up. Agent: Beth Miller, Writers House. (July)See the review on Publisher's Weekly website. And now I'm off to dance and eat cheese.
Lexi Ryan just ran away to join the circus, but not on purpose. A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York City girl, Lexi is on her own. After making a huge mistake - and facing a terrible tragedy - Lexi has no choice but to track down her long-absent mother.
Rumor has it that Lexi's mom is somewhere in Florida with a traveling circus.When Lexi arrives at her new, three-ring reality, her mom isn't there . . . but her destiny might be. Surrounded by tigers, elephants, and trapeze artists, Lexi finds some surprising friends and an even more surprising chance at true love. She even lucks into a spot as the circus's fortune teller, reading tarot cards and making predictions.
But then Lexi's ex-best friend from home shows up, and suddenly it's Lexi's own future that's thrown into question.
With humor, wisdom, and a dazzlingly fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, and the importance of an excellent playlist.
A few weeks ago I was at the bookstore, and I bought THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS because, admittedly, I was so captivated by the cover. I brought it home and put it on the to-read pile. It was one of the first books I decided to dive into. And I'm so glad I did, guys. This book is so well-written. Lexi is a main character you can relate to, cheer for, mourn and celebrate with. The circus setting is enchanting and captivating. And everything that happens within the story resonated with me. By the time I turned the last page, I may have cried once or twice.
So of course I had to have the author of this fabulous book stop by the blog. Without further ado, J.J. Howard. Thank you so much for your time and awesomeness, J.J.!
Tell us a little about your writing process!
Headphones and the project playlist help me tune out the world, although lately I’ve been experimenting with Pandora, because I need some new music! I go for a walk when I’m stuck and need a plot idea—it usually works.
What was the hardest part of writing THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS?
The circus setting itself was the biggest challenge, because I’ve never actually joined the circus myself! The book also goes back and forth in time from the present to the recent past. I didn’t have any trouble the first time or so through, but once you get in to really revising, it becomes harder to make sure everything fits together.
And (of course) how did you come up with the idea for this story?
I think I may have a pretty contemporary voice—but I am also very attracted to magic and fantasy elements in stories. The circus seemed like one of the most magical places you can go and still be in the real world.
How many stories did you write before you finished this one?
I finished a non-YA book—it’s very long and took about four years to write. It was amazing practice, but I also still plan to revisit it at some point! It’s a historical mystery—so that one called for a lot of research.
What was your journey to publication like?
Long! In all seriousness, it was pretty long. I started writing my first book in 1996. I put writing and querying aside for a number of years at one point, but when you turn and look backwards it still seems like a pretty long road. I didn’t take the traditional road, either (which is pretty typical of me!) I sold CIRCUS and then got an agent. I like to say I have this habit of doing things backwards.
What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process?
Just the pure writing the story—the first time through. It’s so much fun to see where the characters take you. My favorite part of that is “mushroom” characters—it’s an analogy Diana Gabaldon (one of my favorite writers) uses. They are the characters who pop up out of nowhere and take over the plot!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I don’t know if I’m at the advice for other writers stage of the game ;) –but if there are any young writers out there wondering if they can do it, I say—if you have the urge, you probably can! People who love stories are going to read stories. Read a lot of excellent books by other people and then write. A lot. Write whatever you want without worrying about who will read it. Just like playing a musical instrument, you learn by practicing.
What is your favorite quote, and why is it your favorite?
Oh, wow—I’m a quote maniac! That’s really hard. One of my all-time favorites is Hamlet’s line “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” It’s just so incredibly true that it’s almost upsetting!
Do you have any new writing projects in the works? Can you tell us about them?
I don’t have anything official—but I have written two more books, and they’re both contemporary YA. So fingers—and toes—are firmly crossed!
J.J. Howard is wearing headphones right now, most likely. She grew up in York, Pennsylvania, obsessed with music, movies, television, and pop culture. You can call her if you ever need to phone a friend for trivia on any of the above topics, but don't ask about sports, because she is hopeless at those (along with math). J.J. graduated from Dickinson College with a BA in English and Tiffin University with an MH in Humanities. She has been some of her students' favorite English teacher for a quite a few years (she even has a mug somewhere to prove it). That Time I Joined the Circus is her first young adult novel. J.J. would love to hear from her readers and is always ready to trade playlists:
Yes, you read that right. I keep rereading it, too, convinced that it must be wishful thinking or I'm still sleeping. But there are several bruises on my arm from all the pinching (okay, not really), and this is still real! If you haven't heard of Kirkus before, all you need to know is that they are considered one of the toughest book critics out there. I would have counted myself lucky if they'd given
Some Quiet Place
an "eh". But it was more than that. So much more that I've been dancing and hearing birdsong for the past week.
Without further ado, the review:
SOME QUIET PLACE [STARRED REVIEW!]
Author: Kelsey Sutton
Review Issue Date:
May 15, 2013
Online Publish Date:
May 2, 2013
Price ( Paperback ):
July 8, 2013
ISBN ( Paperback ):
Haunting, chilling and achingly romantic, Sutton’s debut novel for teens will keep readers up until the wee hours, unable to tear themselves away from this strange and beautifully crafted story.
Elizabeth Caldwell can’t feel emotions, yet she sees them everywhere, human in appearance, standing alongside their “summons.” Guilt and Worry flank the mother of a dying friend. Resentment grips the shoulder of her bruised and battered mother. Elizabeth can see them, acknowledge their power and even speak to them, but ever since the night of a terrible car accident when she was 4, the only sensation Elizabeth is capable of mustering is a numb nothingness. The only emotion that still bothers to come calling is Fear, a menacing and surprisingly seductive suitor who seems as determined as Elizabeth to uncover the truth behind who and what she truly is—no matter what the cost. Elizabeth may not be able to feel, but her novel-long dance with Fear is as sexy and intense as any couple’s in recent memory. This is a testament to Elizabeth’s brilliantly crafted narrative voice. Reminiscent of Death in Markus Zusak’s
The Book Thief
, she shares her story with the cold, detachment of the emotionless yet still manages to convey the urgent and desperate nature of her search for the truth.
Chills and goose bumps of the very best kind accompany this haunting, memorable achievement.
(Paranormal romance. 14 & up)
This post is for all the writers out there who have lost faith. Whether you're querying or submitting to editors, I hope you read this and feel encouraged, even if it's only a little.
When you read those book deal announcements, or those ecstatic blog and Facebook and Twitter updates, it seems so easy, doesn't it?
, they had an agent.
, they had an editor. Then
, their book was on a shelf. Sometimes we hear about the trials and tribulations behind the book deal. Sometimes we don't. Here is mine, for the entire world to see.
Not many people know that
Some Quiet Place
was on submission for over a year. I'm not sure of the exact number of editors we sent it to, but it was well over twenty. And while every editor had something encouraging and positive to say about it - there were also two very big, very close calls - there were ultimately only rejections.
We've all heard that perseverance is the key to success in this business - pretty much any business - but I'll let you in on a little secret. Starting out, I believed that all it would take was having a good story.
Don't get me wrong, that's a monumental component. But perseverance truly was what got
Some Quiet Place
to this point. If I had stopped querying agents after the discouraging results, I never would have found Beth. If we had pulled the manuscript after all the editor rejections, it wouldn't be making its appearance into the world next summer. We never would have sent it to
editor. This is such a competitive business that it takes a little more than luck and a strong story. It takes a bit of a miracle.
It's amazing to me when I think of how strong my belief was - how strong it became - that this wouldn't happen. I was expecting Beth to e-mail me any day, saying we should start with a new project. I even had a blog post typed up on what it feels like not to sell. It kind of shames me to admit that. I lost faith. Not in my abilities or Beth's, but in the value of the story I had created.
In the beginning, there's always such high hopes. Of course there's nothing wrong with that. I think we should even cling to that feeling for as long as possible. I've also done blog posts on maintaining a firm hold on reality, and that's still true. It's a balance.
The point is this. Don't let those rejections affect how much you care about your characters, your plot, your work. Even if some of the statements in those e-mails are true. Maybe your plot is too complex. Maybe your genre is too saturated. Or whatever else they say. That's not the point. I'll say it again in a different way.
The point is to not let those rejections affect your faith.
There does come a time when you need to set something aside, or go back to the drawing board. It's also up to us if we want to revise and resubmit. But maybe that time isn't now. Maybe you haven't found the right agent, or the right editor, and all it takes is one more e-mail. One more try. One more hope.
That's what it was for me.
And I'm so glad we took that chance.