Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just You by Rebecca Phillips: Interview and Excerpt

Fifteen-year-old Taylor Brogan knows that certain things in life are inevitable—your first zit, your first period, and getting dumped by your boyfriend when someone better comes along. When her first boyfriend cheats on her, Taylor can’t even pretend to act surprised. After all, her own father left her mother for another woman after fourteen years of marriage, so it was only a matter of time before it happened to her too.

Through witnessing her parents' bitter divorce, Taylor has learned what she believes to be a certainty—men cheat, men betray, men can’t be trusted. This is what she knows, even though her obsession with swans has taught her that at least some species mate for life.

Betrayed one time too many, Taylor vows to give up boys for good, or at least until she’s done with high school. But when her boy-crazy friend Robin drags her to a party and she meets sweet, gorgeous Michael Hurst, her resolve to stay single begins to crack. Maybe, just maybe, she can trust him not to break her heart. Taylor and Michael begin an exciting-but-cautious romance, hitting several challenges along the way—-parental disapproval, family secrets, and the most daunting obstacle of all, Elena Brewster, a calculating beauty who will stop at nothing to win Michael’s affections.

Not just another teen romance, Just You is also about forgiveness, facing your fears, and learning to embrace the risks involved in trusting someone with your heart

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When Ashley called me that Sunday evening three weeks after school started to give me the news, I probably should have been angry, or at least surprised. But all I felt, really, was tired.
“Oh,” I said flatly.
Oh?” Her screech reminded me of the sound our neighbor’s old Corvette made every morning at 5 a.m., when he hit the gas a little too hard in his rush to make it to work on time. “I tell you your boyfriend was seen with his tongue down Kara Neilson’s throat and all you can say is ‘Oh’?”
“What would you like me to say, Ash?”
Taylor,” she said in the tone she used whenever I was being unreasonable. Which, according to her, was way too often these days. “This isn’t just another silly rumor, if that’s what you’re thinking. I have it on good authority. Heather does not lie. She and Lindsay both saw them kissing on the library steps this afternoon. In front of the whole street. I mean, he obviously wanted you to find out.”
I wasn’t sure what she expected from me. Ashley was my oldest friend—we went way back to preschool—and she knew what made me tick, knew my various idiosyncrasies and accepted them as such. But my indifference to this monumental piece of information obviously had her stumped.
“Kara has always been after him,” I reminded her.
“Well, yeah,” Ashley said, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world. Which it was, I guess. Everyone knew Kara liked Brian. Especially Brian. “And now she finally caught him, and you don’t even seem to care. How can you, of all people, be so calm about your boyfriend cheating on you?”
“I do care,” I said. And I did, a little. It bothered me that Kara Neilson would be bold enough to break the Universal Girl Rule—stay away from other girls’ boyfriends. It also bothered me that Brian finally fell for it. But it didn’t surprise me. Just like I hadn’t been surprised when I got my first period, or my first zit, or my first broken heart. All inevitable events in life, sure things, and sure things didn’t exactly count as surprises. And Brian cheating on me had been a sure thing.
“It seems like, I don’t know…you expected it or something,” Ashley said. She’d always been good at seeing through my bullshit.
“Can you blame me?”
“Oh, Taylor,” she said, as if my cynicism made her sad. “What are you gonna do?”
“What can I do?”
“Break up with him, of course.”
A patch of clouds passed over the sun, cloaking my room in shadows. I reached over to flick on my lamp and then squinted as my room and all my familiar possessions came sharply into focus. In the corner, next to my bookshelf, stood the ratty old corduroy chair I’d acquired a few years ago when my mother bought all new living room furniture. The chair, as usual, was bogged down with dirty clothes, CDs, and school books. Currently, it also served as a resting place for something else—the stuffed swan Brian had given me for our two-month “anniversary” last month. My eyes zeroed in on it.
Years ago, when I was seven or eight, I’d been fascinated with swans. My father would take me to Crawford Park so I could see the mute swan that lived in one of the ponds there. I’d lean over the railing and watch it swim, back and forth and back again, for as long as Dad would let me. I even had a name for it: Millie. Brian knew all this, which was why he’d forsaken the traditional teddy bears and puppies in exchange for a keepsake that would actually mean something to me.
Now, as I looked at that stuffed swan, its fluffy white body half-covered by a pair of dirty jeans and an old math test, I recalled something I had read way back in my swan-obsession phase. And the irony of it almost made me laugh out loud.
Swans, I had learned, mated for life.
“Well,” I said, shifting my attention back to Ashley, “he’s already broken up with me, wouldn’t you say?”
Ashley was quiet for a moment, contemplating this. I could almost see her twirling a lock of her shoulder-length brown hair around her finger, like she did when she was thinking hard. “I’m sorry, Taylor.” Her tone oozed warmth and support, like a verbal hug. A hug I didn’t even need. “Men are scum.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Exactly.”
Men are scum. This, I already knew. And much like the mating habits of swans, it was something I had learned at a very young age. The only difference was, everything I knew about swans had come from books and all those hours studying them at the park with my dad. But everything I knew about men and boys had come directly from my mother.
After successfully avoiding him for most of the week at school, Brian managed to corner me on Thursday afternoon as I scurried toward the less-traveled exit I’d been using all week.
“We need to talk,” he said, appearing at the bottom of the stairs like an apparition.
“No, we don’t.” I descended the stairs and tried to brush past him, but he clutched my forearm, stopping me.
“Yes,” he said, “we do.”
I shook free from his grasp. “No. We really don’t.”
“Come on, Taylor. Let me explain. Please.”
I stopped at the door and then slowly swiveled, leveling my eyes with his. He returned my gaze for a few seconds before lowering his head in shame. The last time I’d seen him look like that, we were ten and he’d just gotten in trouble with Mrs. Kramer, our fifth grade teacher, for throwing Silly Putty in my hair. It was a joke, of course, but I wasn’t laughing as I stood at the washroom sink for a half hour, scraping slimy goo from my long, thick locks. Brian had felt remorseful then too, only to trick me again two weeks later by sneaking an extremely lifelike rubber spider into my lunch bag, causing me to shriek so loud that the girl next to me spilled an entire Thermos of soup into her lap in surprise. He’d had the same hang-dog look after that one too. He’d never been one to think about consequences.
I’d known Brian about as long as I’d known Ashley—we’d gone to school together our whole lives—but it wasn’t until the end of ninth grade that we’d shown any interest in each other beyond friendship and collective memories. It started this past June when my friend Erin started going out with his friend Mitchell. In our crowd, dates usually took place in a group setting, so Brian and I were thrown together a lot. Everyone thought we were dating even though we weren’t, and then all of a sudden we really were. I liked him, but it was awkward a lot of the time. This was Brian, the kid I’d witnessed blowing spitballs through a straw at lunchtime and participating in burping contests with his equally gross friends. Not someone I really wanted to kiss. He was still a boy to me. But all my other friends were getting boyfriends and dating, so I figured what the hell and kissed him one night in Erin’s family room during a particularly dull movie. That I kissed him purely out of boredom should have been my first clue.
Now here we were, three months later, at a stand-off in a school stairwell, and I knew our relationship and our lifelong friendship were both about to come to a very abrupt end.

How did you start your writing career?
I’ve always loved to write. When I was little, I used to write and illustrate my own “children’s books”, which usually involved an animal of some sort engaging in daily, human activities (no plot, really). Then, when I was around 12, I picked up a copy of Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and never looked back. I got hooked on realistic fiction. I wrote my first young adult book shortly after. I played around with writing for years but didn’t get serious about it until a few years ago.
Tell us about your current release.
Just You is a contemporary young adult novel about a jaded teenage girl with trust issues. She’s been betrayed by the person she trusted most in the world (her father) and the experience has colored how she views men and relationships. I wrote this book about four years ago and it spent its fair share of time languishing in slush piles. Finally, I put it aside (along with its sequel, Someone Else) to work on my third novel, Out of Nowhere (which ended up becoming a finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest). I always knew I wanted to try self-publishing my first two books, so I dug them back out, dusted them off, revised, and published them in June 2012. It’s been an interesting experience so far.
When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
Thanks to my supportive, hard-working husband, I’m able to be a stay-at-home mom and live my writing dream. I usually write while my kids are at school, for about two hours in the late morning/early afternoon. Then again in the evening, while everyone is busy with other things. My husband and children know that when the glazed look comes over my face and I’m answering them with vague grunts, it’s best to keep quiet, back away slowly, and come back later. 
Plotter or pantser? Why? 
Oh, I’m definitely a plotter. Before I write a book, I sit down and outline the entire story. I list ideas for themes, plots, scenes, characters, names, situations, conflicts, etc. Most creative people I know are chaotic and messy and spontaneous, but I am none of those things. I’m an extremely organized list-maker who must have a clean desk at all times. Clutter distracts me.
Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?
I’ve idolized Sarah Dessen since the day I discovered her. She’s been a huge inspiration to my writing career. She’s the kind of writer I strive to be. I also follow her on Twitter and she seems like the coolest, most down-to-earth person ever
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love that feeling when the words are coming so fast that my fingers can barely keep up with them. I love that rush of creativity after weeks of writer’s block, when it feels like a dam has broken and the ideas are gushing out in waves. And the readers! There’s nothing like it when a total stranger “gets” your writing and wants to see more of it.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?

The hardest part of writing, for me, is getting motivated to do it. It’s like working out. You feel too lazy to move, but once you do, it becomes easier and you push yourself to keep the momentum going. And when you’re done, you feel lighter and better (and no longer guilty about slacking off).

Do you have a website or a blog?
I have a blog: It’s strictly about my writing life.

Rebecca Phillips lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband, two children, and cat. She started writing young adult fiction around the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. She didn't start getting serious about it, however, until she was in her thirties. After several years of writing, rewriting, revising, submitting, and banging her head off the keyboard, she entered her third novel, Out of Nowhere, in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She made it all the way to the Top 3 in the YA category. In June 2012, she self-published her first two contemporary Young Adult books, Just You and Someone Else.
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Enter for a chance to win a Smashwords code for a Free download of Just You.
Comment on this post for a bonus entry.
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Giveaway ends September 8th 11:59PM Central Time.


Erika said...

This looks very interesting and love the concept! Thanks for the giveaway!

e. said...

Thank you for the giveaway!!

Nourah Saleh said...

Hi ~
just read the book synopsis it looks really interesting
it kinda reminds me of sarah dessen books, which happens to always often
i'm looking forward to reading this book even if i haven't won <3

Nourah Saleh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Phillips said...

Oops, accidentally signed in with my other email there.

Sarah Dessen is my personal hero, so that is the best compliment ever. :) Thanks and good luck!