Phoebe is excited to start her senior year of high school. If she maintains her grades, she's been promised a great track scholarship to USC where she plans to attend with her two best friends. But her mother takes a summer vacation to Greece and comes back engaged to a a Greek man and announces to Phoebe that they are immediately moving to a tiny Greek island for Phoebe's senior year. Not only is Phoebe upset about this for all the obvious reasons, but when she gets to the island and her new school (of which her stepfather is the headmaster), she discovers she also has a rather evil stepsister, and the private, exclusive, super-secret boarding school has a huge secret (which the title might clue you into). I love the title, and I love that the book is totally appropriate for middle schoolers. (I think the worst word used was "bi-atch"). The only thing I didn't love was that I thought surely there must be some secret reason why Phoebe's mother took her out of school right before her senior year when she could easily have waited just one year. What mother, especially a psychologist, wouldn't do this for her daughter? But see TLC's response to this below.
I figured that since I was so remiss in posting about this that I should ask Tera Lynn to do a little interview for me/you, so here you go! (Don't read questions #4 or #5 if you're worried about possible spoilers.)
1. Someone at the launch party mentioned a Golden Heart Award. Explain!
The Golden Heart is the Romance Writers of America contest for best unpublished manuscript. I finaled with my very first manuscript, an historical romance titled Summer Sapphire, which was a Romeo & Juliet story set in Regency England (the era of Jane Austen). Sadly, I didn't win, but finaling in this contest gave me the confidence to keep writing.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Oh.My.Gods.? What about the title?
Oh. My. Gods. was born when I came up with the original title, Growing Up Godly--which was a twist on the title of the reality show, Growing Up Gotti. Since I'm not an inspirational writer, I had to come up with an alternate meaning for "godly." I've always been a myth and history nut, so the Greek gods seemed like the perfect solution. Since obviously someone would have to be "growing up," I knew this needed to be a young adult story. Gradually, the pieces fell into place until I had my premise and my main character, Phoebe. The story developed from there.
3. How did you become familiar with Greece and Greek for the book?
I acquired a library of research books. (I love any excuse to browse the bookstore!) Travel guides, like Greek Island Hopping and the Eyewitness Guide to the Greek Islands, help me get a feel for the landscape and architecture of that world. The Eyewitness Guide is great because it includes fully illustrated pages of history, cultural information, and local foods. Culture Shock!: Greece gave me some insights into modern Greek culture and daily life. Also, of course, I scoured the internet. I used online maps to locate the actual island of Serfopoula, Greek-English dictionaries to come up with my gods-related terminology, and tons of other sites to find everything from ferry schedules to the history of marathons. **
4. Why didn't Phoebe's mother wait one year to move to Greece???? I kept thinking it was going to be revealed that she knew about Phoebe before they moved, which is why she wanted to move there so soon.
I was so surprised when you told me you were mad at her mom about this! I never even thought about it, and here's why: Phoebe's dad died very suddenly six years ago. Since then, Valerie had thrown herself into her work and full-time focus on Phoebe, putting aside her own needs. When she finally had a chance at happiness, to do something for herself for the first time in so many years, it wouldn't have been fair to make her wait.
5. What can you tell us about the sequel?
Well, it's currently languishing without a title, though hopefully that will soon be remedied. It's hard to dish without giving spoilers, so I'll just go ahead and give (a cagey) one. The sequel takes place the summer after Oh. My. Gods. (between Phoebe's 12th and 13th years) and stars the same fun cast of characters, with a couple of new additions. She's having trouble adjusting to her new, ah-hem, life and has to go to a special summer program, affectionately known as Goddess Bootcamp, to improve her control. (Is that vaguely clear enough?) It will be available next summer.
6. What has been your best/favorite author experience so far?
I'm still in the honeymoon stage, so it's all great. If I had to pick one moment, though, it would be getting my first fan mail. It was from a teen bookseller in the L.A. area who'd gotten the advance copy from her boss. This was around three weeks before my release date, so at first I thought she had the wrong author. Or the wrong book. Or it was some kind of scam and I was going to have to send her my bank account number and first pet's name. But no, it was legit. This was my first response from an actual teen (you know, my target audience?) so it was a huge thrill. And a huge relief.
7. If you weren't an author, what would you be?
Miserable! Seriously, I've considered--and pursued--many different careers: science teacher, doctor, intellectual property lawyer, architect, actor, wedding planner, web designer, historic preservationist, theatre history professor, environmental biologist... I could go on, but you get the idea. Writing is the first one I've stuck with longer than a year or two (going on five, now). I can still indulge in all those other, fleeting passions...but now they count as research for a book!
** In my opinion, you should definitely take this opportunity/excuse to travel to Greece! Write it off as a business expense. Take lots of pictures of you there for your website. Or take pictures of the scenery and say this is where this or that from the book happens.