Monday, October 12, 2015

Four Months Later and What Feels Like an Overdue Apology

It's been more than four months since Hello, I Love You hit shelves, and it's been a bumpy ride, to say the least. There have been some amazing moments in my publishing journey but also some really difficult ones, as well.

It's no secret that my debut novel received some bad reviews. It's also not a secret that, because of negative feelings about the book and me as the author - directed at me personally - I decided to leave social media. I haven't talked much about this because I felt like it wasn't my place to intrude upon the reader's space, but I think now that it's been four months, it's okay to say something.

First and foremost, I'd like to apologize personally to anyone I might have unintentionally offended with Hello, I Love You. It makes me more sad than I can express to think that something I wrote hurt people. I can assure you that was never my intention.

My intention with the book was to portray a character that's flawed, who undergoes major changes through the book. While writing and editing, I felt like I was being true to the character to include Grace's judgmental behavior and comments. I was hoping that the reader would see her evolution as a character as she grew and changed into a better person.

However, a number of reviewers felt that the change wasn't significant enough. And while my pride would like to argue, I honestly can see where those reviewers are coming from.

I can also understand the reviewers who couldn't stick with Grace through her blatantly critical phase. I'll admit that, as the author, I also found her quite harsh, and it was difficult for me to write opinions that I didn't share.

None of this is in any way a defense of the book. I leave it up to readers to decide their own opinions about Grace and her story. Looking back, would I change things about it? Definitely. I'm happy that I was able to change a number of things after ARCs were printed, so that the finished copies don't include a number of the passages that people found the most upsetting. I was extremely grateful for that opportunity, but there are still things I would change, even now.

When I first started hearing about the negative reactions to the book, I was horrified. When I began to receive criticisms directed at me personally, I was ashamed - not only of the book but of myself. I wished I'd never written it, that I could go to every bookstore in the country and pull every copy off the shelves. I can't tell you the number of times I was moments away from sending my agent an email, telling her I was quitting writing.

Unfortunately, Hello, I Love You published at a very tumultuous and emotional time in my life, and I'm sad to say that the book made it even more difficult. And when I had that realization, a part of my writing dream died. I was no longer enamored by the idea of the writer's life or producing stories that people would hold in their hands. I just wanted to leave it all behind, because clearly, I had failed - and I was a failure.

I won't bore anyone with the details of my angst and regret. This is all to explain why I decided to leave social media. It's also to explain why I haven't responded to any criticisms about the book. But I think I've spent enough time worrying and feeling sorry for myself.

I don't know what the future holds for me, in terms of writing. I don't know if I'll stay in YA. I don't know if I'll even publish another book. But I do know that, even with the challenges, I'm grateful for this experience. I learned a lot - about myself, my own obliviousness to issues I've never had to face (like racism), and my own insecurities.

Do I think Hello, I Love You has flaws? Yes. But does it also have its merits? I like to think so. At the end of the day, I wanted to write a story about hope and change. About facing the ugliness inside you and discovering that it's okay to admit your mistakes and become a better person.

So I'm taking a play out of Grace's handbook and admitting that I made some mistakes. I hope that readers will see that I'm human and flawed, just like everyone else. And again, if you were personally offended or troubled by the book, my deepest regrets and apologies for hurting you.

On the other hand, if you did like the book, wonderful! I'm happy that you joined Grace and Jason (and me) on this rollercoaster and enjoyed the ride. I hope you took away the same truth Grace did - that there is always hope, even after the darkest grief.

Thanks for reading to the end, lovelies. And thank you for being a part of my chance to live my dream. No matter what happens now, I've written a book that people have read, and that's enough for me.

Monday, August 17, 2015

So What Happens after Hello, I Love You?

Photo from @thelyonwriter on Instagram

Since the release of Hello, I Love You, I've had quite a few people send me emails and messages asking if there will be companion novels that focus on the other characters, like Sophie and Yoon Jae. While I hate to tell you that HILY is a standalone, I'm hoping that it lessens the blow when I tell you that I do know what happens to everyone.

And I'm going to tell you!

Now, just a warning: There are spoilers in this post. A lot. If you haven't read HILY and don't want to know what happens in the book, then don't read this. Also, if you have your own ideas about what happens to the characters and feel like my thoughts will spoil that, don't read this.

Because even though these are my ideas about post-HILY happenings, this isn't a book and therefore not canonical (if we're getting all technical). And sometimes, as a reader, your own ideas are better than what the author thinks.

But for those of you who do want to know, think of this as what I would add to an "epilogue" if you could fast-forward ten years.

Begin spoilers ------------------------------>

The summer following the end of Grace's senior year, she moves to Seoul. She and Sophie get an apartment together. In the fall, Sophie goes to university, where she's pre-med. Grace gets an internship with a record company in college while getting a music degree.

Meanwhile, Jason still struggles with his label about his music. He ends up leaving that label after another year and signs on with a much smaller label, where he's able to have more creative license with his music. Many of his fans remain loyal, and he becomes that new label's top-selling artist.

Tae Hwa leaves the music industry and goes to work for his father's construction company. He keeps in touch with Jason and Sophie, but when he moves to Busan, they drift apart. He and Sophie meet-up a year after they graduate high school, to see if there's still a spark between them, but mutually decide they aren't right for each other. He meets a girl on a blind date set up by his parents, and they end up falling in love and getting married.

Yoon Jae's career with the new band really takes off, and they become one of the hottest groups in Asia. He and Grace are still friends, and while he doesn't want her to know, he still likes her.

After finishing her junior year of high school in America, Jane moves to Seoul to live with Grace and complete her senior year there. She connects with Yoon Jae through Grace, and he allows her to tag along with him sometimes, where she fangirls over his life and everyone he knows. She crushes on him the entire time, but he never returns her feelings. When she graduates, she goes back to the States  and gets a college scholarship to play soccer at University of North Carolina.

Yoon Jae gets over Grace and decides that he can't afford the distraction of a girlfriend, anyway. He makes the tabloids by dating a number of famous Korean actresses and singers, but he never settles down. His career continues to skyrocket until he's one of Korea's favorite celebrities; he ends up leaving his band and going solo as a pop artist, where he tops the charts.

Grace and Jason continue their relationship while she's studying. They break up once her junior year, when he starts drinking pretty heavily after his father dies. But with some counseling, he cleans himself up, and they realize that they want to spend their lives together. They get married a year and a half later. Jason quits being a singer so he can become a songwriter, while Grace (who's finally learned Korean) becomes his songwriting partner. Together, they write and produce songs for some of Korea's most famous artists - including Yoon Jae.

Grace's parents never visit her in Korea (not even for the wedding), but she still goes back once a year to see them. They never understand why she chose to live abroad, but each year, the relationship between Grace and her mother softens a little. They'll never be friends, but Grace no longer fears talking to her.

Nathan, Grace's brother, is honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame two years after his death, and Grace is there to accept the award in her brother's place.

-------------------------------------------------------------------- the end

So that's what I think! Hope you enjoyed this little post. Maybe you have better ideas. I'd love to hear them! You can email me with what you envisioned for the characters' futures at katiemstout [at] gmail [dot] com.

Photo from on Instagram

Photo from @teensatvpl on Instagram

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Best Books of 2015 (So Far)

It's the end of July, which means we're halfway through the year. I don't know about y'all, but thus far for me, 2015 has offered some amazing reads. I've read some great '15 releases as well as some backlist titles that I'm so happy I picked up.

So I thought I'd share my top 10 books I've read in 2015 (so far). It's a mix of 2015 releases and backlist titles.

Hope you find something that grabs your interest!

Champion, by Marie Lu

I started this one at the end of December but didn't finish it until January, so I'm counting this one as a 2015 read. Interestingly, I didn't like the first book in this series, Legend; it never truly grabbed me. I picked up Prodigy on a whim, but it totally shocked me with how amazing it was, and Champion was even better.

This book wrecked. me. In a good way. That epilogue was so intense and amazing. I listened to this on audio, and I was at the gym trying to mask my sniffling as labored breathing on the elliptical when I finished this one. SO good!

The Infinite Sea, by Rick Yancey

I know a lot of people didn't enjoy this sequel to the acclaimed The 5th Wave, but I absolutely did. Rick Yancey's writing blows me away, and this book totally slaughtered my emotions. I ripped through the pages of this short book, and the ending left me desperate for book three...which I'm still dying for.

Is it 2016 yet?!

The Wrath & the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh

Everyone has been talking about this book - and for good reason. It's fabulous. The writing is atmospheric, the characters complicated and well-developed, and the setting lush. I wanted to live inside these pages with these characters.

Also, this is another book that left me DYING for the sequel. I gotta know what happens to Shazi and Khalid like right now!

Salt & Stone, by Victoria Scott

I've recently really discovered thrillers, in part because of Victoria Scott. I love this series! The MC, Tella, is everything I love, and the plot is fast moving and exciting. I was really looking forward to this one after finishing Fire & Flood last year, and this totally didn't disappoint.

The Falconer, by Elizabeth May

Steampunk is really hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes, it does nothing for me, but other times - like with The Falconer - I eat it up. This book is fierce and thrilling. The characters are fiery, and the plot moves at a rapid pace. But most of all, The Falconer is just a ton of fun. I loved it, and - yet again - I'm counting the days until I can get my hands on book 2.

Daughter of Deep Silence, by Carrie Ryan

This book really took me by surprise. It wasn't on my radar at all until I saw some blogger friends of mine reading and really loving it. I bought it on Audible as a total impulse buy, and I'm so, so glad I did. Daughter of Deep Silence is like crack. I couldn't put it down. I had to know what happened next.

I also really loved Carrie's writing. It's gorgeous and so on point I can't even. The book ended in a place that left me with tons of questions, but I actually sort of loved the open ending. That hardly ever happens with YA books, and I'd totally love to see more of that.

Reawakened, by Colleen Houck

It's no secret that I'm a huge Colleen Houck fan. This woman has an amazing ability to write romances that totally slay me and every emotion I've ever possessed. Needless to say, this was possibly my most anticipated book of 2015. And while I didn't love it with the undying passion that I hold for the Tiger Saga, it still clocked it as one of my favorite reads so far this year.

Reawakened has all the elements of the Tiger Saga and is actually very similar. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's essentially the same thing but with Egyptian mythology instead of Hindu myths and legends. I didn't get the intense feels from this one that I did Tiger's Curse, but I can see this shaping up to be an amazing series that could be just as great as the Tiger Saga.

Oblivion, by Kelly Creagh

The award for longest wait for a series conclusion goes to Oblivion for sure. There was FIVE YEARS between the release of Nevermore and this book. Like...whaaaaa??? But I'm so happy to report that it was worth the wait. This book is amazing. My emotions are still basically in turmoil after finishing this, so I don't have words to express my love for these characters and this book, but I'll just say this: ISOBEL + VAREN 4 EVAH! < 3

I Am Her Revenge, by Meredith Moore

I really had no idea what to expect from this book, but it wasn't this. Meredith's debut is gorgeous, terrifying, and oh so thrilling. It's dripping with tension and is perfect for fans of classic literature. The setting is perfect, the characters are perfect, and basically everything about it all culminated to craft one of my favorite YA thrillers of all time. So much love for this book!

The Winner's Crime, by Marie Rutkoski

Like, can we just...

This is the best book I've read so far this year. It's everything I wanted and more. The Winner's Curse blew me away, but Crime totally shattered all hopes and expectations I'd had and was just...more. I don't think I've ever hurt so much for characters in a book before I read this. I was simultaneously angry and gleeful on every page. I couldn't stop thinking about these characters, and it basically gave me the biggest book hangover ever.

Best Read(s) of 2015 so far...

I'm totally cheating by adding not one or even two books to my top 10 list but three. But A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet trilogy totally warrants it. I binge read this entire series in May, and I've never been so happy with a reading decision ever.

I'd been holding onto Scarlet for years. I bought it a long time ago but hadn't picked it up. But when I was approved for Lion Heart on Netgalley, it kicked me into gear, and I literally devoured all three books. I don't normally like to read series books back-to-back, but I broke my rule for these. I've never loved a YA historical series so much ever.

Those are my favorite books I've read so far in 2015!

Hope you've read some great books too, lovelies!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why You Won't Find Me on Social Media

If you followed me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I no longer have an account on there anymore. I'd like to say it's because I'm trying to be a better person and don't need social media anymore, but honestly, it comes down to the fact that I had a growing feeling that it's just too small of a pool for both authors and readers to be swimming in. Some authors are amazing at navigating those waters, but I'm not.

Also, I know that some writers are thick-skinned, but I've learned that I don't respond well to people tweeting and messaging me negative things about both me and my writing. So to be completely honest, this was for my own mental health. I struggle with anxiety already, and I realized that social media (and Twitter specifically) was only causing me more stress, worry, and insecurity.

Thank you to everyone who's spent years chatting books and celebrating publishing milestones with me via social media. I've been a part of the publishing community for five years, and it makes me a little sad that the voices of a few have so ruined my social media experience as an author. However, I really believe this was a good decision for me.

I'm still part of Class of 2k15. And I'll also write any newsworthy info here, but otherwise, I'm hoping to subtract from my internet presence.

Cheers, lovelies!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Better Late than Never: Launch Party Pics!

This is totally a month late, but here's me officially saying MY LAUNCH PARTY FOR HELLO, I LOVE YOU WAS SO FUN!

Y'all, I was so worried that nobody was going to show up, but there ended up being about 80 people there. It basically made me feel like the Grinch after his heart grew three sizes.

I was also worried about having it at a Barnes & Noble, but they were so great. I would totally do an event there again. I loved how professional they were, and lol I laughed when the manager was treating me like I was Cassandra Clare or something. He missed the memo that I'm not famous. Baha!

But you didn't come here to listen to me ramble on and on. You came here for the good stuff - pictures!

And here they are:

These cookies were legit. I made sure to choose ones that actually tasted good, rather than just looked pretty. (But they do look pretty, hey?)

So it was a launch, and that meant I had to talk and sign books. I was way nervous, but it ended up being fab. It's less scary when you're talking in front of people you actually know.

And surprise: there were people I didn't know! Real teens! It totally made my day.

Basically, it was just an all around good time. And I've had a ton of fun at every other event I've done so far.

Can't wait for Decatur Book Festival in September!