Q & A Friday: Morgan Matson on Change, Weddings, and the Grant Family

Hi, there! Welcome to my last post in this series. If you wanted to read the previous posts I had in this series, you can read them here and here.

Today I’m going to talk about the swoon-worthy novel Save the Date by Morgan Matson. This was the second Matson book I read, and it was such a sweet read. I found the characters so relatable, and I loved the Grant family so much! If you wanted to know more of my thoughts on this book, be sure to check out my review. I can’t wait for you to read this interview I did with Morgan!

A little about Morgan:

morgan dog.jpg

Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College as a theater major, but halfway through, switched her focus to writing and never looked back. She received an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and then a second MFA in Screenwriting from USC.

She is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, all published by Simon & Schuster. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her rescue terrier, Murphy, in a house with blue floors that’s overflowing with books.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Want to know more about Save the Date? Here’ the synopsis!

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster. There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo. Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Morgan!! Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me about Save the Date. I can’t wait for everyone else to read it. It was such a fun read!

To start things off, why don’t you start by describing your book in 10 words or less.

Okay, I’ll give it a shot! I don’t write short books, so brevity is always a challenge for me. But how about this:

Wedding disaster, little sister, cute boys, unexpected dog, happy ending?

Perfect!! Weddings are so much fun. What made you want to write about one?

Aren’t they? I feel like there’s so much inherent drama in a wedding! All the family members coming together, and people from two different families joining up.  I’ve never been to a wedding where there wasn’t at least one last minute crisis, and so I thought it would be a great setting for a novel. And I also thought it would be fun to write about a wedding not from the POV of the bride or of a planner, but the younger sister, who’s both a part of the wedding and seeing it from the outside. It let me have my (wedding) cake and eat it too!

Charlie’s sister’s wedding goes through quite a few classic wedding disasters. What was the most fun one to write about?

I think the most fun one to write about was the decorations mishap. I thought to myself, what would be the worst event to have your wedding decorations mixed up with? And a nine-year-old’s Australia-themed birthday party seemed to be just the perfect amount of terrible. Nobody wants a wedding with koala decorations!

Yes! That scene was hilarious!! Who doesn’t love koalas anyway 🙂 Do you have a favorite part of a wedding (both fictional and in real life)?

I have two favorite parts of any wedding. The first is the moment when the officiant asks if anyone knows a reason why the couple should not be married, to speak now.  The part of me that loves drama is always holding my breath at that moment, even though I’ve never been to a wedding where anyone has ever said anything.  But we’ve all seen so many movies and TV shows that we’re primed for high drama at that moment!

And my other favorite is the couples’ first dance. It always makes me well up! I love that moment when these two people, who’ve been through this whole ceremony together, are now able to exhale and dance together as a married couple for the first time ever.  In every wedding, you can kind of see the couple look at each other like, “We did it! We’re married!” It’s just my favorite moment.

The dance is so touching! I love it too. I loved the Grant family! They reminded me of mine. Do you have a lot of siblings too? Does the Grant family remind you of your family?

Oh, I’m so glad you liked them! They were such a blast to write. I do not  have a lot of siblings – I have just one older brother, so we were a smaller family. But maybe because of that, I always wanted a ton of siblings and a big family.  I was even jealous of my friends who had three siblings in their families – it just seemed like there was always more going on!

So the Grant family was more of what I’d imagine a big family to be – lots of coming and going and drama and fights and laughter.  I wrote the big family that I always wanted to have! But of course, bits of my family made it in there too – the little sayings and rituals that are totally normal to your family that nobody else understands.  My mom, like Mr. Grant, is a really accomplished gardener, so that’s where that came from.  And parts of the Grant house, especially the front hall and the kitchen, were based on my family’s home in Connecticut.

I also noticed a lot of Easter eggs hiding within your book. How many did you include? What was your favorite part of writing them in?

Good eye! I love including little Easter eggs in my book – it’s one of my favorite parts of writing a new book, getting to check in with characters from other books.  My favorite part was probably getting a bunch of characters from Unexpected Everything in there, especially because in the past, many of my Easter eggs have just been passing references or little hints.  When I saw a way to actually have these characters engage with the Grants, in a way that didn’t feel forced, I got really excited.  I felt like I actually got to reconnect with the characters from Unexpected Everything, and catch everyone up on what they’d been up to.

There’s also a pretty quick reference to Amy from Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, and most of my books now have had a long-running reference to something first set up in Second Chance Summer, and it pops up again here too.

Charlie struggles a lot with change throughout the book, whether it be moving houses or choosing which school to go to in the fall. Is this something you struggle with yourself? How did your own experience help you shape Charlie’s?

This trait, of struggling with change, is absolutely something that Charlie and I both share.  I hate change, and have ever since I was little.  And Charlie’s feeling regarding going to college in the fall – her ambivalence about it – was my exact same feeling.  All my friends were so excited to be going to college and I just didn’t feel that way. It was like I could sense that what we’d had during our high school years was going to be very different very soon and I just wanted to hold onto it a little longer rather than rushing onto the next chapter.  But like Charlie, I soon realized that life moves only forward and if you can (it’s hard to do) it’s better to think of change like an exciting adventure rather than something to be dreaded.

But since I had this feeling that I hadn’t seen expressed much in books or movies, I wanted to give this to Charlie – and maybe someone else who feels this same way will see their feelings reflected!

I love this! Thank you so much for your time!

Big shout out to Morgan for being amazing! Her interview was awesome, and I had so much fun coming up with questions. Be sure to check out Save the Date if you haven’t already.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Advertisements

Q & A Friday: Brendan Kiely on Tradition

Hi guys! In the spirit of continuing my mini-series on some fabulous 2018 reads, I have an interview with the great Brendan Kiely, the acclaimed co-author of All American Boys. In 2018, Kiely published his latest novel, Tradition. This book tackles tough topics in an accurate yet sensitive manner. I devoured this book once I started it! I hope you love it as much as I did, and be sure to keep an eye out for a review of it on the blog soon.

Here’s some things you might want to know about Brendan:

Brendan Kiely

Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

Find Brendan here: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Want to know more about Tradition? Here’s the synopsis below!

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep

school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Brendan!! Thank you for taking time to sit down to answer some of my questions. I loved Tradition, and I can’t wait to discuss it!

Thank you so much for reading it, and caring, and thank you for this interview!

To start things off, why don’t you give a brief overview of your book.

            Tradition is about two outsiders, Jules Devereux, a whip-smart, confident, rabble rouser, and James Baxter, a tough, and sensitive kid on a hockey scholarship, who become friends as they learn just how dangerous the school’s old-boy, misogynistic traditions can be. When Jules is assaulted by an ex-boyfriend, she and Bax risk everything they’ve spent their entire high school careers working for to break the school’s culture of silence and complicity.

This is a very heavy, but important topic that you cover, and you write it in such a lovely way. What was it like trying to tackle it?

            Thanks for this question. It means a lot to me. I write contemporary realistic fiction, and though this is a novel, and Jules and James are characters, not people, I try to be as careful as I can because their stories are so viscerally similar to real people’s stories, and so, when I write, I try to listen to the characters with as much care and consideration as if they were real people sitting in front of me, telling me their stories.

I think writing, like living, is all about practicing empathy.

Did you write this book with a certain intention or message?

            All my books begin with a question that is deeply affecting me. In this case it was this: How can our community better listen to and support women, especially those who have been speaking out about misogyny, harassment, and assault for so long, and in particular, how can men become better feminists? I tried to address that question by writing Tradition.

Jules is so awesome. Can you talk a little about where the characters came from? Do you start with characters or a place?

            Thank you! I think Jules is awesome too, because she reminds me of some of those awesome students I had the honor to teach, advise, and watch soar out into the world. I worked in a high school for ten years, and the students who peered around the school’s walls and stared out into the wider world, are the students who inspired Jules. And Bax too. So many young men (myself included) grow up with so much pressure to try to be tough athletes, and when those some of those boys get together, in order to prove to each other how tough they are, how much of a “man” they are, they say terrible things about women, or worse, sometimes act in disrespectful or even harmful ways towards women. But then there are the guys who witness all this and think to themselves, “this isn’t right.” I remember those students too—the guys who did want to listen, the guys who turned around to the other guys and said, enough is enough. Bax and his big, soft heart reminds me of those guys who are out there too.  

I always start with characters. I write scene after scene after scene getting to know them, and though most of those scenes get thrown out, I do it because it takes time getting to know someone—just like in real life!

How did writing these characters and this story contrast from your other works?

I love this question, because I think Jules in particular is so different and unique. As a man writing a book in which half of it is from a woman’s perspective, it was essential for me to get feedback from women along the way. In order to try to be as accountable as possible, I asked nine women to read over my shoulder as I wrote Tradition—while I’ve always asked for feedback from readers while working on a project, I’ve never had so much feedback at once, and I’m forever grateful for the time, attention, and care!

There’s a distinction between a harmful tradition and a fun, silly one. Is there a fun one that you enjoy?

            Yes! Absolutely. Tradition itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s only when the tradition is used an excuse to protect some people while others are being harmed that it’s a problem. Every year in Barcelona, on April 23, couples exchange books and roses with each other, the tradition is called the festival of St. Jordi. It’s been going on forever, and no one really knows how it started, but it’s awesome and still continues today—it’s like a super bookish Valentine’s Day! And closer to home, right where I grew up, it was a tradition for many years that many of the neighborhood families would gather at my friend Adam’s house for Christmas Eve, and his father would make the same calzone every year, and we’d all sit around the piano and sing while another friend’s father played the songs. But what makes these traditions fun is that they are inclusive—everyone feels a part of it. The traditions that bother me are those designer to make some people feel excluded, or insignificant, or disrespected in some way. Those are the kinds of traditions Jules and Bax want to tear down and expose for their ugliness.

Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can share a little about?

            Ahhhh!!! This is always the hardest question because when I’m in the middle of something I never know what it really is until I get to the end of the first draft. I will say this though, I love telling stories that are full of heart and emotion and people learning how to better listen to each other, and my next project follows in the same… well… tradition. Ha! Thanks so much for asking!

Thank you so much to Brendan for taking the time to speak with me on the blog! I encourage you all to go out and get yourselves a copy of this excellent novel.

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Posted in Bloggers, Q & A, Sophie

Q & A Friday: Siobhan Vivian Talks Stay Sweet

Hi there! I hope you’ve had a good new year so far! I’m going to feature a few authors whose books I read and absolutely loved last year. I had the chance to interview them thanks to their amazing publicist.

Today I’m talking with Siobhan Vivian, author of Stay Sweet, and many other novels. (Read my review of Stay Sweet here.) Siobhan was actually the first author who did an interview on my blog here! You can read that here.

Here’s a little more about her formally:

Siobhan Vivian

Siobhan Vivian is the author of THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD (April 2016), as well as THE LIST, NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, SAME DIFFERENCE, and A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE. She also co-wrote BURN FOR BURN series with her best friend JENNY HAN. She currently lives in Pittsburgh.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

I absolutely loved Stay Sweet, and couldn’t put it down when I took it with me over spring break! Here’s some more info about the book.

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—

Stay Sweet

the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository |IndieBound

Interview

Hi, Siobhan! Thank you so much for taking time to sit down and answer my questions. It’s lovely getting to work with you again, but this time forJustine! I wish you the best with Stay Sweet, and I’m already looking forward to your next book We Are the Wildcats.

Thank you so much for the great questions, Sophie! It’s always a pleasure to “speak” with you! J

Let’s start with you describing your book in ten words or less.

Simply put, it’s about sisterhood, summer, ice cream, and romance.

A big part of this novel is about Molly Meade, a self-made woman who owned her own business. Where did you come up with the character of Molly?

Molly is based in large part on a teenage version of my grandmother, who was very resourceful, ambitious, and driven, particularly for a girl in the 1940s. And the more research I did about that time in American history, I realized that many of the challenges young women were facing back then parallel the issues of our time.

If you were the proprietor of your own business, what would it be? Why?

I would love to run a small coffee shop with homemade baked goods, because coffee and baked goods are fundamental to my daily existence. 

While it’s written in third person, this follows mainly Amelia. What was it like writing in her headspace? Did you think about writing a little from Cate’s perspective too?

I actually wrote several drafts of Stay Sweet in first person, and it just never felt right. I found it very difficult to capture the timelessness and history of Meade Creamery through Amelia’s contemporary perspective. I also didn’t like how the story transitioned from Amelia’s POV into Molly’s diary entries in first person. There wasn’t enough POW to the change in perspective. Once I made the decision to change it to third person, I felt more deeply immersed in the storytelling.

I love the best friendship in this book. It reminded me of all the girls who have been there for me in the same way. Did you draw on your own relationships to help build the friendship between Cate and Amelia?

Oh absolutely. I’m extremely lucky to have befriended several strong, successful, sparkly women throughout my life and I used lots of different facets of them to build the friendship between Amelia and Cate.

Have you ever worked in an ice cream shop yourself? If so, what was your favorite part?

I never did! But one of my former students at The University of Pittsburgh worked at a small ice cream parlor and she gave me many incredible details.

How did you come up with the flavor Home Sweet Home?

I had a really in-depth conversation with Katie Heldstab—one of the founders of Pittsburgh’s Leona’s Ice Cream (www.leonaspgh.com) –about what ingredients someone might use to sweeten ice cream if they didn’t have access to sugar. Katie is a graduate of the infamous Penn State Ice Cream program and super well-versed in the science and chemistry of ice cream making. Her input was beyond helpful!

Alright to wrap this up, is there anything you can share about your upcoming novel with us?

Yes! It’s a 24-hour clock, which is a device I’ve always wanted to use in a book. And I’m returning to a mutli POV ala my book The List. Finally, the story allows me to explore one of my favorite themes—all the complicated and magical ways that girls form friendships with each other.

Thank you so much, Siobhan, for taking the time to answer my questions! I can’t wait to read We Are the Wildcats!! Please be sure to check out all of her books — they’re divine!!

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂

Sneak Peek Sunday: The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone

Hello there and happy Sunday!! I’m happy to be here again with another book that will come to you this Tuesday. Thank you to the publicist for sending me an early review copy! This in no way affected how I read and reviewed this text.

The Perfect Candidate
Goodreads | Amazon

Title: The Perfect Candidate

Author: Peter Stone

Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR

Expected release: October 2, 2018

My rating: 3/5 Goodreads stars

From debut author Peter Stone comes a heart-stopping, pulse-pounding political thriller that’s perfect for fans of Ally Carter and House of Cards.

When recent high school graduate Cameron Carter lands an internship with Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC, he thinks it is his ticket out of small town captivity. When he lacks connections and Beltway polish he makes up in smarts, and he soon finds a friend and mentor in fellow staffer Ariel Lancaster.

That is, until she winds up dead.

As rumors and accusations about her death fly around Capitol Hill, Cameron’s low profile makes him the perfect candidate for an FBI investigation that he wants no part of. Before he knows it—and with his family’s future at stake—he discovers DC’s darkest secrets as he races to expose a deadly conspiracy.

If it doesn’t get him killed first.


This book was pretty good overall, but slow paced in the beginning. It was really hard to get into at first, so I think that’s why I rated it lower than a four. I had a hard time getting used to Cameron’s voice, and I didn’t quite mesh with it.

This story starts right away with Cameron taking a taxi into Washington D. C. I really liked that Stone included a character from Cameron’s past so it threw a potential ally to him. Right away you could tell that Cameron was an outsider to this world. Something that confused me was why he arrived later than his housemates. Right away I liked his housemate Zeph. I could tell he would be a fun character throughout the novel.

The mystery portion of the book doesn’t start until a few chapters in, and I was curious to see how things would go down. I was sad to see Ariel go because she was a cool character, but I knew going into it to not get too attached to her.

I feel like the investigation portion of the book could have been more compelling. I wasn’t as invested as I felt that I should be. I think part of it could have been that I didn’t really connect with Cameron’s voice.

Something really surprising was the ending. I think this leaves the opportunity for a sequel in the least, if I got the final reveal correctly.

Overall, this book wasn’t too much for me, but I really think this could be a good book for someone else. I recommend you give it a try!

Happy reading,

Sophie 🙂