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:
I love the title! How did you come up with STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD?
As Sophie starts to piece together Nell’s last days, every lead ends in a web of lies. And the deeper Sophie digs, the more danger she’s in—because now she’s hearing the same haunting whispers. Sophie’s starting to think she’s going crazy too. Or worse, that maybe she’s not…
How to Become a Published Author in 37 Easy Steps
1. Move to New York with no intentions of being a writer. Work in publishing. Read lots of books. Date various guys until, out of loneliness, you settle for the one who isn't evil.
2. Join the corporate softball team. Meet a tall, handsome managing editor. Tell him you have a non-evil boyfriend. Kick yourself for being so damn committed.
3. Leave your publishing job for a job in PR. Tell everyone how excited you are. Tell yourself that you're really on the road to the career you're meant to have. Tell yourself that the tall, handsome managing editor isn't really that tall and handsome.
4. Begin to suspect that PR is not, in fact, the career you're meant to have. Begin to suspect that PR is kind of awful. Feel angry and stifled.
5. Start a secret blog. Spend your downtime at work writing an essay about that time your dress blew up in the Fulton Street subway station and a bunch of Japanese businessmen laughed at you. Be delighted when people comment and say that they liked it.
6. Begin to suspect that your non-evil boyfriend is kind of awful, too. Meet up every couple of weeks for beers with the tall, handsome managing editor when your boyfriend blows you off.
7. Admit to yourself that the tall, handsome managing editor really is that tall and handsome. Feel guilty.
8. Get blown off by your boyfriend for fantasy football pick night. Vow not to call the tall, handsome managing editor. Go home. Open your laptop. Write a short story out of boredom.
9. Send the short story to a writer friend. Tell her she's crazy when she tells you it should be a novel. Tell her you could never write a novel. Tell everyone you could never write a novel.
10. Start working secretly on a novel.
11. Discover that your crappy-but-at-least-he's-not-evil boyfriend is, in fact, SUPER FREAKING EVIL. And also, cheating on you on the internet. Dump him. Write a blog post about it.
12. Write lots of blog posts. Write a post about Harry Potter. Write a post about elevator conversations. Write a post about having maybe possibly sleepwalked out into the hallway of an apartment building you do not live in wearing nothing but your underwear.
13. Get five comments.
14. Get twenty comments.
15. Get an anonymous email from a person you've never met who tells you to please, please think about being a writer.
16. Feel empowered. Feel crazy. Quit your job in PR to work part-time as a copywriter. Freelance for magazines. Shriek the first time you see your by-line. Tell everyone you're going to be a writer.
17. Marry the tall, handsome managing editor.
18. Lose your job. Be despondent, until you realize that now, you can work on your novel ALL DAY LONG.
19. Finish your novel. Be very excited for one whole day.
20. In the cold light of the day-after-novel-finishing, become completely and totally despondent. Tell your tall, handsome husband that your novel sucks ass.
21. Tell him you're going to delete it.
22. Tell him that no you will not let him bring it in to work because it sucks ass and you're deleting it.
23. Repeat steps 20-22 for the next two weeks. Use the words "sucks" and "ass" as frequently as possible.
24. Well, okay, maybe he can show it to someone at work.
25. But only if he promises to show it only to the lowliest, most bottom-rung-of-the-ladder editorial assistant there is. Make him promise. Make him promise several times.
26. He lied. You are going to kill him.
27. Receive email from the publisher. She has read your draft. She thinks your novel has promise. Agree to do a rewrite. Grudgingly thank husband, but reserve the right to kill him later.
28. Get another copywriting job. Spend your days proofreading manuals for personal electronic devices. Collect freelance gigs. Work on your revision at night.
29. Lose your job again. Believe it's a sign from the writing gods. Become a hermit. Work on the revision all day, every day.
30. Send your completed revision to the publisher.
31. Wait. Wait. Wait.
32. Bandage the small, gnawed-looking stumps where your fingernails used to be.
34. Run into publisher on the subway. She is going to email you tomorrow.
35. Because she is going to buy your book.
36. And she does.
37. When your crappy, evil ex-boyfriend emails you to say congratulations, tell him to go suck an egg.
7/10 - Interview at Rescue Reads
7/12 - Review at The Story Siren
7/13 - Guest Blog at author Kelsey Sutton's Blog
7/15 - Debut Author Spotlight Interview & Giveaway at Page Turners Blog
7/16 - Guest Blog at 365 Days of Reading
7/17 - Guest Blog at Magnet For Books
7/18 - Interview at Steph Su Reads
7/19 - Giveaway at YA Bliss
7/20 - Interview & Giveaway at Reading or Breathing
7/21 - Review at The Mod Podge Bookshelf
7/22 - Giveaway at Midnight Garden
7/23 - Guest Blog and Giveaway at Reading Away the Days
7/24 - Giveaway at Books to Consider
7/25 - Guest Blog at Words Like Silver
7/26 - Review at Making the Grade
7/27 - Interview at Book Chic
7/28 - Guest Blog at The Mod Podge Bookshelf
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Thanks so much for interviewing me, Kelsey! I love your blog! I'm a stay-at-home-mom to three cute kids and I've been married 8 years to the love of my life. I've played the harp for a very long time, love to sing alone or with my sisters and I can play the piano a little, but not really well.
I've always wanted to play the harp. I'm a piano girl, myself. Hey, maybe we can give each other lessons!
2. Are you allowed to tell us anything about your book?
It's about a teenage guy who gets stuck being a fairy godmother for his last assignment at the Academy of Magical Beings. He has to grant three wishes to a troubled human girl to get his diploma and become a Sandman. There is humor, some mystery and a little bit of love!
What a unique premise! Can't wait to get my hands on it...
3. Have you always wanted to be an author? What was the first thing you remember writing?
Actually, no. I've always had stories in my head but never thought about writing them down until high school. I think the first story I wrote was about a bunch of high school kids stuck in a cabin with a bear trying to break in and eat them. Yes. I was very creative back then, haha.
4. Will you share something about your writing style? Music, plotter/pantser, etc.
I used to write in complete silence, but having 3 kids and a hubby who likes to watch movies really loud I've had to adapt to noise. I love writing to music. It gets my creativity moving. Movie scores are the best to write to. As for how I write, I'm a total pantser. I do outline a little, but never the whole book. I know what I want to happen before I start writing my books, but things always change as I go along. I wish I could plot a little more, but I've gotten used to the fact that pantsing is just how I roll.
Don't worry, I'm a pantser too. And I love movie soundtracks; Lord of the Rings is the best.
5. What do you do when you are not writing?
Chase kids around most of the time! Read if I can. And I love watching movies with my hubby.
6. What was the last book you read?
Witch Song by Amber Argyle. Loved.
7. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Never give up. Truly. And write because you love it. You have to be the first one to love and believe in your work. If you can do that, you'll make it someday.
8. How did you find your agent?
I found him on querytracker. He was in the very last batch of agents I queried. He called me two days after I sent it to offer representation! Again, never give up!
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla all the way!
Sweet or spicy? Sweet. Although I do like a little spice in life.
Dogs or cats? I'm a dog person.
When Violet Ambrose's morbid ability to sense the echoes of those who've been murdered leads her to the body of a young boy, she draws the attention of the FBI. She is reluctantly pulled into an investigation that will endanger more than just her secret...but her relationship and possibly her life as well.
All the characters from The Body Finder are present, and we also get to meet some new ones. I won't ruin it for you, but there's one character in this book that makes my mouth water! And it's not Jay...
When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meanings?