Skip to main content

Into YA with Nikki Barthelmess

Today, the wonderful Nikki Barthelmess is here to chat about her new novel, The Quiet You Carry, which comes out on March 5. If you haven't heard about the The Quiet You Carry, I recommend you check out my review of it to provide a little context for the interview. 
1. In the unfolding of Victoria’s story, you expertly point out points in the foster system where its flaws and procedural issues lead to it being just as hard and ruthless as it’s portrayed in movies and television, but you also humanize it beautifully, showing the good intentions beneath the struggle. Was it important for you to show the softer side of the system with Connie’s evolution and the relationships between the foster sisters? Is there a change to the system that you think would allow people like Connie to make her realizations sooner and make transitions like Victoria’s less traumatic?
I think, in general, most people aren’t all good or all bad. Even those we consider villains, tend to see themselves as doing the right thing, or at least trying to. So, in that regard, even though I would hope I wouldn’t act the way Connie does when she first meets Victoria, I understand why she is the way she is, if that makes sense. In the same vein, it seems from Victoria’s perspective that her case worker is being negligent or doesn’t care about what happens to her. But from Mindy’s perspective, she’s doing the best she can, juggling the impossible caseload of foster kids she has to work with. 
As far as changing the system to make entering and experiencing foster care less traumatic for kids like Victoria and her foster sisters, I could take all day answering that question. But for starters, I think it’s important for people working in child welfare to remember how much the kids who are in their care have already suffered, and for them to treat these kids with kindness, dignity, and respect. 


2. Though your story differs from Victoria’s, you have talked about being in the foster system yourself. When did you decide you wanted to write a book about a girl in foster care? Did you ever have a hard time with the subject matter being so personal?
When I first started writing fiction, I had no desire to write a story about someone in foster care. I thought if I wanted to do that, maybe I’d write a memoir someday. But then I started to learn about how important it is for people from marginalized communities to see themselves represented in fiction. For many years I had noticed there being a lot of stigma and misconceptions surrounding people who grew up in foster care, and I wanted to do something about that. 
I think the reason I didn’t want to write a story about a foster kid, initially, was that I knew it would be really hard for me. Writing this book forced me to sit with some pretty traumatic memories. As you mentioned, Victoria’s story isn’t based on mine, but there are similarities. Victoria’s emotions, from feeling abused and abandoned to wanting to protect her abuser as well as being ashamed of things that weren’t her fault, are all feelings I had. At times, it was painful reliving those. 


3. As a debut author, you’re still close to the time you spent querying. What was that process like for you? Do you have any advice for currently querying writers?
I realize now that the rejection that comes with querying is a good thing— it means the agent isn’t the best fit for your work, and you want your agent to love your writing since they’ll have to read it so much and may even spend years helping you revise and trying to sell it. Finding an agent, for me, didn’t take as long as did to find the right fit for a publisher, as the first book I wrote didn’t make it past the submission stage. So even when you get an agent to work with you, there can still be more rejection to come! 
My advice for querying writers is to get your writing as good as it can be, through working with critique partners and revising. After that, you should spend as much time as you possibly can researching agents and trying to find one that would be the best fit for you and you writing. That way, you’re only querying agents who are likely to give you a chance, and you’re not wasting either of your time. Remember, this process may take a while but if you want to be an author, try to get used to it, because finding an agent is only the beginning.


4. Your author bio also mentions that you are a journalist as well as a novelist. Are you equally drawn to both? Do you think your journalism background helped prepare you to write the novel, or do you feel they’re separate entities?
I have been a journalist since graduating from college in 2011, but I am transitioning to focusing mostly on my fiction, at least for now. Although they are completely different jobs, I do think my journalism background helped me become an author because I was used to working with an editor and taking constructive criticism. And I’ve had to work on deadline before, so I know how to write even when I’m not feeling inspired to do so. 


5. The Quiet You Carry debuts in less than a week. For readers who will likely be anxious for more of your work, are there any projects you can talk about that are lined up for the future? 
I’m working on something that hasn’t been announced yet, but it will be soon. So stay tuned! 

You can find Nikki online on Twitter (@nikkigrey_), Instagram (@nikkibarthelmess), and her website, nikkibarthelmess.com.

Books by this Author...
The Quiet You Carry: Review Here

Links of Interest:
On The Come Uo: Review Here
You Asked For Perfect: Review Here
The Art Losing: Review Here
Starfish: Review Here


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dumplin'

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (375 pages)
Overview: Willowdean "Dumplin'" is fat. It's something that she's come to accept about herself even after years of fad diets enforced by her mother and bullying at school. Aunt Lucy certainly helped with her self acceptance, and in cultivating her love of Dolly Parton, but Will is left rudderless after Lucy has a sudden heart attack. To reclaim a bit of confidence she'd lost, Will signs up for the Clover City Pageant. Though she's not the typical beauty queen, Will and her group of friends get to put their own stamp on her mother's beloved pageant. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 I like Willowdean. She lives in the place most of us do on the fine line between insecure and confident. Murphy does a great job building a crew of characters around Willowdean. It was fun to revisit the cast after I'd read Puddin', Murphy's forthcoming companion novel.

Plot: 4 While this book is mainly billed as being about a beaut…

Top Reads of 2018

This year's best of 2018 list has tons of new categories to fit all of the amazing books I read this year. I've had the chance to read so many advanced books and recent releases, so most of what I read were books that came out in 2018. I mostly choose contemporary, so I've started with my favorite debut as well as the best books in other genres I've ventured into. After that, I have smaller categories in the contemporary genre. I hope you find new books to love and give to your friends and family for the holidays. If you're interested in learning more about the books on the list, click their titles to go to my reviews. Let me know if these are some of your favorites in the comments, and tell me your favorite books!
Best In Genre Top Debut
Nothing Left To Burn by Heather Ezell Nothing Left To Burn gave me the craziest book hangover. I was so immersed in the story, and I couldn't stop reading to do anything that I actually needed to be doing. There is a toxic relat…

Have a Little Faith In Me Review

Have a Little Faith In Me by Sonia Hartl
Overview: CeCe and Paul have no reason being at Jesus camp. Paul gave up his faith years ago when his paster father abandoned his mother,  and CeCe never really believed to start with. They're not there to find their faith again, though. CeCe is on a secret mission to win back her born again boyfriend who dumped her after having sex. Whether it's love or just proving something to herself, CeCe is determined to get Ethan back, even if that means fake dating her best friend, Paul, and listening to hours of sermons. While CeCe shakes the camp up, she starts to shake up some ideas of her own about what happened with her and Ethan. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 I love CeCe. She's bold, unflinching, bright, and impulsive. Unafraid to be quiet about her own beliefs she challenges a lot of the misogynistic happenings at the camp and vocally questions why girls are left to shoulder the responsibility for "tempting" boys by not being modes…

Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (306 pages) Buy At Your Local Bookstore*
Overview: It's just one elevator ride. Just one elevator ride to the rest of Will's life. Eight floors takes so long when you're headed to kill someone. Even in revenge. Even for justice. Even when your brother was just murdered. It's even longer when every stop brings someone who's left your life back in. There's so much to learn before Will hits the lobby. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Because of the atmosphere and the point of the story, we don't get super into the characters. They each represent a stop on a horrible cycle. It starts with Buck, Will's older brother, Shawn's, older brother figure. When Buck got killed, Shawn had to avenge his death, which got him killed. He also meets his Uncle Mark, an aspiring filmmaker who's death lead to Will's father's death because of the Rules. Each character doesn't exist to explore themselves or have their own motives- they…

What If It's Us

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (448 pages)
Overview: Ben and Arthur meet at the post office during a flashmob. Well, Arthur followed Ben into the post office because he thought he was and, and, just as they started talking, in true form with Arthur's New York fantasy, a flash mob erupted. When the boys and split up, Arthur loses his chance at connecting with Ben, but when he can't stop thinking about him, he explores ways to reconnect even in a city of a million empty faces like New York. Even if they can find each other, with Arthur going back to Georgia at the end of the summer, will it even be worth it? Overall: 4/5

Characters: 4.5 I'm not sure what to say about the characters. I liked them enough, but I didn't feel any real attachment to any of them. I liked the cast of friends, but they all lacked a certain weight that would give them a stronger sense of reality. My favorite relationship in the book was the friendship between Dylan and Ben.…

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett (417 pages)
Overview: Glamping should not include getting stranded in the middle of the woods with your ex-best friend. But life doesn't always go as it's supposed to. When Zorie agrees to go with her friend Regan and her crew on a summer camping trip, she doesn't know Lennon will be there, and she's certainly not expecting the group to abandon the two of them in the middle of the California wilderness, forced to complete a multi day track back to civilization. It turns out, though, that an adventure in the woods might be just what they need. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I thought that all of the characters, including the adults, were given dimension. I loved the parental dynamic between Lennon and his moms as well as Zorie's relationship with her step mom who never considered Zorie less than her own daughter.
Lennon and Zorie are also awesome characters. Zorie has to battle her intense anxiety and relinquish control while she's stuck in…

Into YA with Shana Youngdahl

I'm so excited to announce this interview with Shana today. Her book blew me away and kept me prisoner on the couch while I raced to finish it. I loved how she took such a complex format and ambitious story and made it feel so easy. I really admire that as a writer and enjoy it as a reader. If you haven't had the chance to read As Many Nows As I Can Get, check out my review for some context on what we talk about.  Anyway, I'll let you get to the interview, but I want to thank Shana for doing this interview and chatting with me cause she really is the sweetest. 
1. The book is told out of sequence covering a broad span of time from senior year, the summer after, and through the entire freshman year of college. Did you write the book out of order or did you piece it together later? Was that your original plan? Did it take very intricate plotting to piece together a very specific way? 
Yes, it’s non-linear to reflect Scarlett’s understanding of time. It mostly covers her Senior …

Spin

Spin by Lamar Giles (387 pages)
Overview: Fuse and Kya have lost their best friend. #ParSecNation lost their leader, and the Dark Nation has decided to do something about it, even if it means terrorizing those who were closest of her. DJ Paris Secord, or ParSec was murdered at a warehouse she planned to throw a party in. Fuse and Kya found her when they'd come to make amends for different issues they'd rather the public, or the cops, not know about. But they both want to see Paris's killer caught, so they might have to overcome their differences and work together. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 Fuse, Paris, and Kya all get a turn to narrate the story which I enjoyed. They each have their own voices and personalities that really shine through and bring a different angle to the same storyline.
Fuse is rich. Her dad runs a successful marketing company, and she shifted what she learned from him to making Paris's music and brand famous. She helped Paris climb the ranks, but, at t…

Heroine

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis (417 pages) To Purchase From Your Local Bookstore (Affiliate Link)
TW: Depiction of opioid addiction 
Overview: Mickey has it all. She's on the best softball team in the county, she has a supportive best friend, and, even though her parents have recently gone through a divorce, they both want to support her. And then she and Carolina get into a car accident on the way home to watch Netflix and eat pizza, a regular Friday night. Mickey's leg is all but torn out of her body, and her hip has to be put together with screws. Carolina, the school's near famous pitcher, nearly destroys her arm. As the girls fight to be ready in time to play their senior softball season, Mickey falls down a dangerous road, slowly upping her intake of pain pills to get through the day and to quicken her pace through physical therapy. Even as she tells herself that it's just for softball, just for her team, just for her parents, as she gets further in and her dependency i…

Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard (January 29)
Overview: Eden has always been the irresponsible one with poor grades, a loud mouth, and a general air of irresponsibility, but it's her friend Bonnie that takes over the headlines of every major news station in the UK. Bonnie disappears with her ,music teacher and parent boyfriend, Jack Cohen, better known to everyone at Kett as Mr. Cohen. Eden can't believe that a friend would do this, but, suddenly, when she gets a WhatsApp message from Bonnie, she's clued in to their runaway mission. Pressured by her family, Bonnie's, and the cops, Eden refuses to tell them what they know because she made a promise to her best friend. Overall: 3.5 

Characters: 3 Okay, I guess I can see some of the thinking behind these characters, but it wasn't articulated very well. Eden refuses to tell on her friend even though she knows how wrong and serious the situation is. I can see making a promise and being hesitant, but I can't see a sixt…