Veronica Bartles: TWELVE STEPS

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions.  Today we’re talking to Veronica Bartles, author of TWELVE STEPS.  Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published!  How’d that happen?

I wrote my first novel in 2008, when a speaker at a women’s conference gave me the courage to let go of the paralyzing fear of failure and pursue my lifelong dream. After a year of revision and polishing, I started querying that manuscript… and discovered that I still had a long way to go before it was really ready. I put it aside and wrote something else. And then another something else. And another. But I couldn’t get that first story out of my mind, so I pulled it out of the drawer and totally rewrote the entire thing, keeping only a line or two from the original manuscript. And I got really close with my queries this time around, but after a handful of encouraging rejections, I convinced myself that this manuscript would always be the one that was almost good enough, but not quite there.

Since I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters yet, I decided to let go the same way I started. I devoted NaNoWriMo to writing a separate story, from the perspective of the little sister in my first novel. This was supposed to be something just for my own kicks and giggles, and I told myself that when November was over, I’d put both stories away and say goodbye to these characters forever. But instead, I fell in love all over again. And when I revised and polished this manuscript, and entered a few online pitch contests with it, the requests started pouring in. In July, I accepted an offer of publication with Swoon Romance.

What’s your debut book about?  Can you share any cool details with us?

TWELVE STEPS by Veronica Bartles

Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. The only thing Andi’s sure she has going for her is her awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina’s perfect everything else.

When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough, and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina and get the guy. But when a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi realizes that her twelve-step program isn’t working. Her prince isn’t as charming as she’d hoped, and the spotlight she’s been trying to steal isn’t the one she wants.

As Laina’s flawless façade begins to crumble, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.

One very “cool” detail is that Andi and Jarod (her crush) go out for ice cream in the middle of the winter. In Wyoming. So that’s more than just cool, it’s downright freezing.

Oh, that’s not what you meant? Hmmm…

Andi is a secret history nerd. She models her life on her favorite quote by Thomas Jefferson: Nothing gives a person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.

What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?

I’m a full-time mom with four amazing kiddos (ages 9, 11, 13 and 15), who keep me running around like crazy. Luckily, they also fully support my writing and send me to my desk to work if I procrastinate too much.

When I’m not writing, reading or shuttling kids around, I’m usually found in the kitchen, creating new and fabulous recipes for my crock pot, as well as delectable desserts. I also enjoy knitting with recycled materials, like plastic bags, old t-shirts and discarded video tapes. I’ve knitted (and written my own patterns for) pretty purses and tote bags, jewelry, toys and even hats!

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

1. I write all of my rough drafts by hand, with the special pencils I’ve been collecting since I was in third grade for the express purpose of writing “my first published book.” The first draft for TWELVE STEPS took four full pencils (one of which came all the way from France) to write.

2. Although I’m outgoing and friendly, I’m secretly terrified of people, and I have a mini panic attack every time I have to start a conversation – even if it’s with one of my closest friends. However, writing confident, brave characters has helped me to find some hidden bravery in myself. And sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly nervous in a social situation, I’ll adopt Andi’s confidence to get me through.

3. I’m the second oldest of eight children, and like Andi, I always felt like I was stuck in my sisters’ shadows. (Ironically, my sisters admitted to me after we were all grown up that they often felt like they had to compete with me!)

Veronica Bartles lives in New Mexico with her husband and four children. When she’s not writing or lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, she enjoys creating delicious desserts, exploring new places, and recycle knitting. Her debut novel, TWELVE STEPS (Swoon Romance) will be released in March 2014.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Christa Desir, author of FAULT LINE

faultlineI’m so pleased to have the privilege to introduce you to Christa Desir’s intense, emotional FAULT LINE, a book I kept thinking about for quite some time after coming to its powerful ending.  FAULT LINE follows Ben, a well-liked high school swimmer whose new girlfriend Ani is raped at a party.  What makes the book unique is it provides insight into the tumultuous aftermath of sexual assault from the perspective of the boyfriend of a rape survivor.  I knew Christa and I were kindred spirits when we seemed to Tweet simultaneously about subjects that amazed or irritated us.  I’m so pleased to share her thoughts about her debut novel with all of you.

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Christa.  Can you share with us how you came to write FAULT LINE? How did your background as a rape survivor activist impact your writing?

Well, the story came out of a rape survivor writing testimonial workshop that I participated in with the Voices and Faces Project. The class exercise was to write a scene from a point of view that was a different gender or sexual orientation. I wrote from the point of view of a 17-year-old boy and then it was like the voice of Ben was in my head and I knew that was the book I wanted to write. As far as my work as a rape victim advocate in ERs, yes, every survivor is part of me. So all their stories in one way or another impacted the story I wanted to write and the things I wanted to say.

FAULT LINE really interested me because, as you just mentioned, it addressed the issue of rape from the point of view of a male whose girlfriend has been the victim of sexual assault. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Well, two things: first, I’m generally pro-dude and I wanted teen boys to read a book about rape where they weren’t vilified as perpetrators. The reality is that the majority of teen boys aren’t raping people, so I wanted a book for them, one where they could look at the main character and say, “Yeah, I could be him.” Second, I wanted to tell the story of the people around survivors who are impacted by the rape as well. There are some really great books told from the point of view of survivors, but not nearly as many told from the point of view of those who are in the boat of suck with them. I think we distance men and boys from this issue by not acknowledging how much they are affected by it too. I’ve gotten great feedback from guys on this book and have heard many say, “Yes, I want to help. What can I do?”

Did the frank sexual content ever pose an issue in terms of trying to find a home for the book? Why did you feel it was important to include such elements?

Hmmm…well, I don’t really know. My agent was really on board with it from the start. And Pulse offered for it pretty early on. And in terms of including the graphic content, I wanted to have a frank discussion about the fallout of rape from a sexual perspective because of I have heard from survivors over and over again that one of the effect of sexual violence was they were very promiscuous after their rape; they had sort of shut down. And while this isn’t something that happens to everyone, it has been a common enough RTS (rape trauma syndrome) reaction that I felt it was worth discussing. Particularly in light of Ani not knowing what happened at the party and the rumors that followed that night.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading FAULT LINE?

I guess I want people to understand that rape affects a lot more than just the survivor, that our words can harm, that there isn’t a simple way to “fix” a survivor, that sometimes you don’t get the bad guy in the end, that finding your way back from sexual violence (as a survivor or someone close to a survivor) may take longer than a few months. And that the fallout from rape can look very different for different people.

Without giving too much away, FAULT LINE’s realistic ending isn’t necessarily a fairy tale ending. Can you talk about your choices at the end of the novel without including any major spoilers? (That might be difficult, I know!)

Well, I haven’t been shy about telling people that this isn’t a happy ending. I didn’t want that. It’s not what I’ve seen with most of the survivors I’ve worked with or heard from in my life. Even when survivors do everything right, a state attorney can plea down, drop charges, etc. The Steubenville trial was likely the best outcome that girl might’ve ever gotten and it wasn’t without TREMENDOUS sacrifice on her and her family’s part. So, I guess what I wanted to say with my ending is that sometimes people don’t bounce back from sexual violence the same as how they were, no matter how much we try, no matter how much we do, there’s not always a perfect “healing” path or timeline for getting over rape. It doesn’t work that way.

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

Well, my parents were sort of not great about monitoring the things I read as a child, and I therefore was reading way inappropriate stuff as a very young child, but these were the books I read that meant something to me: Bridge to Terabithia, Girl, Interrupted, The Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankenweiler, and Bastard Out of Carolina.

Thank you so much, Christa!

About the Author

christaChrista Desir has been in love with YA books ever since reading Judy Blume’s FOREVER (while hiding between the stacks in the library).  Her first success with writing came at the age of five when she wrote a story about her sister and her neighbor Andy “kissing in the dushes.” Christa lives outside of Chicago with her husband, Julio, and three children. When she’s not writing, she edits romance novels.  She is also a feminist, former rape victim advocate, lover of coffee and chocolate, and head of the PTA.  Visit her author website or catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Jennifer Mathieu is a writer and English teacher who lives in Houston with her husband, son, dog, and two cats. A former newspaper journalist and East Coast native, Jennifer loves to eat but hates to cook. Her YA debut, THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE, will be published by Roaring Brook Press in June 2014.