Celebrating Debutantes 2017: The Thing with Feathers by McCall Hoyle (Author Interview and Giveaway)

Welcome to another feature of Celebrating Debutantes 2017 event. Today I’m featuring new author McCall Hoyle and her contemporary novel, The Thing with Feathers. This wonderful diverse book is not only heart-warming but also full of hope.

To know more about the author and The Thing with Feathers. Check the McCall’s bio and book’s description that follows after the interview. There are also links where you can catch up with the author or where to pre-order copies of the book. And if you’d like to own a signed advance readers’ copy of the book and swags, there’s a giveaway at the end of this post. Just enter the rafflecopter form for a chance to win.

Interview with McCall Hoyle

How was the experience writing your debut novel, The Thing with Feathers and going through the publication process?

The Thing with Feathers is my first book, but I truly believe it will always be the book of my heart. Although, I am in no way Emilie, the main character in the book, I have felt all the emotions she experiences—grief, hope, feelings of inadequacy.

I’m not going to lie, the road to publication is long and arduous. But every step along the way was worth it when I first held an advance copy of the book in my hands and especially when I read the acknowledgements and realized yet again how lucky I am to have had so much help along the way from family, critique partners, professional organizations like Romance Writers of America.

I love the title and cover art of The Thing with Feathers. If I’m not mistaken the title comes from Emily Dickinson’s poem. Did you have any say in choosing the title and cover art? How important do you think they are?

Yes, the title is a line from a well-known Emily Dickinson poem. She writes: “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers; that perches in the soul; “ When the title came to me, I knew it was perfect. Everything about this book and about Emilie, the main character, is about learning to find hope even in the most difficult circumstances. And reading poetry and studying Emily Dickinson have a major impact on Emilie’s emotional arc in this story. Thankfully, my agent, editor, and publisher also agreed the title was perfect. I don’t personally think a title is going to make or break a book, but I love a nice title—especially one that’s somehow connected to the theme of the book and that readers have to uncover the meaning of for themselves.

Mental health themes in YA novels are not only widening but also getting lots of buzz especially with how they are portrayed. What can you say about this? What message do you want readers to take away from your book?

I’m too new to the business of publishing to address trends or speak for other books. But I can speak for Emilie. I want readers to relate to Emilie on an emotional level. Epilepsy is not a mental illness, but living with an invisible and stressful disorder like can greatly impact a person’s mental health. As a teacher, a mom, and a human, I believe we all struggle with complex issues at varying levels whether it’s epilepsy, anxiety, depression, body-image issues, grief or something entirely different. I want readers to read Emilie’s story and realize that we all struggle, but that struggling is not a reason to give up hope. No matter how flawed we feel, no matter how awful the adversity, we can always find a reason to hope. I want teenage girls to have the courage to believe in their own happily-ever-afters.

As a writer, was it difficult to combine romantic elements with the exploration of Emilie’s condition?

That is an excellent question. First, I wanted this to be Emilie’s story. I wanted it to be a story of strength and resilience and hope. I did not want the romance to overshadow Emilie’s emotional growth. But in my experience, relationships are a central part of who we are. We’re constantly starting, developing, and ending relationships. Emilie’s story is about opening up, taking risks, and learning to hope. Taking a risk on friendship and first love were a natural part of her growth as a human being. I feel like it worked. Epilepsy is a big part of Emilie’s life, but it’s not her entire life. She’s a perfectly average teenage girl. Yes, she has epilepsy, but she’s also dealing with all the things teenage girls deal with including boys. 🙂

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing  Emilie’s story? Any interesting things you found out during your research?

Of course, I did lots and lots of research on epilepsy, different types of seizures, the effects of epilepsy on mental health and day-to-day living, as well as various treatment options. I also read several stories about the benefits of therapy dogs, seizure response dogs, and dogs in general and became fascinated by the touching and almost magical relationships between dogs and humans. Emilie has a seizure response dog named Hitch, inspired by a real life golden retriever and by many of the stories I read. Several early readers seem to love Hitch as much as they do Emilie. I encourage readers to do some research of their own if they fall in love with Hitch.

How did you go about putting yourself in Emilie’s mindset? How did you manage your emotions while writing?

I’ve taught middle school and high school for several years. I’ve raised a teenage daughter, and I was a teenage girl. On an average day, I spend more time with teenagers than with adults. Also, I experienced some of the greatest trials of my life during my teenage years. It’s actually frighteningly easy for me to put myself in the mindset of teenage girls. Emilie struggles with managing the challenges of her epilepsy and her seizures, but in my experience, all teenage girls are struggling with something. When I write, whether it’s about a girl with epilepsy, or a girl struggling with grief, or a girl struggling with body image issues, I just try to tap into the emotions I’ve experienced in similar situations. And above all, I aim for honesty. I want teenage girls to know that no matter how flawed they feel, there is always room to hope.

And I did cry as I wrote several scenes in the book, but I tried very hard not to “manage” my emotions. I tried to embrace them. I think readers want to feel something. So when my own writing rips me apart emotionally, I generally think I’m writing some of my best words.

Do you think you’ll stick writing YA contemporary or branch out into something else? Any future works we should watch out?

I will ALWAYS write YA contemporary. My heart and soul reside in the emotions there. But I do have an adventurous side and would love to experiment with something gruesome and terrifying and maybe women’s fiction as well. I love writing about sisters and moms and daughters.

Fingers crossed on the YA contemporary that I’m currently revising for my editor. I think it would pair nicely with Emilie’s story and would love to have a 2018 release as well.

Thanks for having me!


McCall Hoyle writes honest YA novels about friendship, first love, and girls finding the strength to overcome great challenges. She is a high school English teacher. Her own less-than-perfect teenage experiences and those of the girls she teaches inspire many of the struggles in her books. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with her family and their odd assortment of pets—a food-obsessed beagle, a grumpy rescue cat, and a three-and-a-half-legged kitten. She has an English degree from Columbia College and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. She lives in a cottage in the woods in North Georgia where she reads and writes every day. 

Find McCall

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


Book Details:

Title: The Thing with Feathers
Author: McCall Hoyle
Publisher: Blink
Publication Date: September 05, 2017
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover, eBook, Audio

Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

Book Links

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher


What’s up for Grab?

  • signed advance readers copy of The Thing with Feathers
  • bookmark, and postcard

The Rules:

  • Open to International
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends August 29th, 2017
  • Prize will be sent via book depository

To enter fill out the form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2017 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post or check out twitter and facebook using #CelebratingDebutantes2017.

Blog Tour: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (Author Interview + Review + Giveaway)

Happy Monday!

Today I have best selling author, Francesca Zappia on the blog as part of the promotional tour for her latest young-adult contemporary novel, Eliza and Her Monsters. In this latest young adult contemporary novel, Francesca give readers a story that is not only fun and heartwarming but also respectful to a sub-culture where people with common interest unite.

Eliza and Her Monsters is out tomorrow, so don’t forget to grab your copies. But before that, check the interview and book review below to get an idea of how good the book is.

Also, there’s a giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win copies of Eliza and Her Monsters.

Interview with Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters deals with mental illness and depression just like your first novel, Made You Up. What drew you to write stories with these sensitive themes? As a writer, do you feel a sense of responsibility? If so, how do you deal with this?

I write about these topics because I think more people should be aware of them and sensitive to them. I definitely feel a sense of responsibility. I think all writers should—no matter what your genre or subject matter, you’re portraying human lives, and real people are going to be impacted by what you make. I don’t know necessarily that we should “deal” with responsibility; I think it’s something we should carry with us. I always do my best to research what I’m writing about and make sure I look at it from many different angles, because everyone who reads the story is going to have a different experience and is going to see it through a different lens. At the end of the day, I may still mess things up, and I have to own that, too.

Eliza and Her Monsters was a little different to write because it is very much about my own experience with anxiety. I felt like I wasn’t just writing for other creative people who deal with anxiety, but for a younger version of myself.

I love the inclusion of graphic art illustrations, convo messages and other snippets in Eliza and Her Monsters. I must say, I envy your artistic talent. What inspired you to add those illustrations? Do you think the story will still work the same way without them?

Thank you! The inclusion of the artwork was actually part of the whole concept of the book, and was there from the very beginning. Monstrous Sea (the webcomic Eliza draws) is my own earliest story, and I’ve been drawing artwork for it my whole life. Putting some of that into the book was a super fun way for me to introduce readers to that world and give them something visual to hold on to. There isn’t that much of the Monstrous Sea story in the book, so with pictures, the readers can actually see those characters and understand better what Eliza and her friends are talking about.

I think the story would work without the pictures (I wrote and edited the whole thing without them!), but I think it’s way less fun.

Eliza and Her Monster is very respectful to fandom. Are you a fangirl yourself and if so what are you a huge fan of? Could you tell us about some of your own experiences with fandom?

YES. Oh, geez, yes. I’m pretty picky about what I call myself a fangirl of, but when I do fangirl, I fangirl hard. My first big experience with fandom was on some Harry Potter forums online. When you signed up, you got sorted into a house with a common room and prefects and everything, and you could go to different threads to attend certain classes for roleplaying, and you could claim certain magical objects from the books, and it was GREAT. I used to draw Harry Potter fanart on those boards, too. I really miss that. I’m also right now working on an epic Pokémon fanfiction. I’d definitely call myself a Critical Role fangirl, too—Critical Role is a webseries where a bunch of professional voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s better than any TV show I’ve ever seen. I also really love Dragon Age: Inquisition, and right now I’m obsessed with Final Fantasy XV. (In Eliza, Monstrous Sea is described as a cross between the Faust legend and the Final Fantasy video games. It’s because I LOVE THEM.)

It’s taking all my will power not to start yelling about my favorite characters from all of these things.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating Eliza? How did you go about putting yourself in her mindset?

The most surprising thing was probably exactly how easy it was to put myself in her mindset. There is so much of myself in her—her insecurities, her anxiety, her love of her art—that the difficult part was not putting myself in her mindset, but forcing myself to write down what I found there. I sometimes felt kind of sick while I was writing because it was all hitting so close to home.

In Eliza and Her Monster, online communication plays a huge part in the story. Do you think it is important for writers like you to use online mediums not just for promotions but also to interact with your followers? Is social media more useful than distracting?

For me it is more useful than distracting, but that’s not true for everyone. For writers, promotion comes best when you’re doing what you’re good at, and what you’re comfortable with. For me, mediums such as YouTube and Snapchat haven’t really been an option, because I don’t have the time or interest to use them. Some writers don’t like using Twitter or Instagram; some don’t like using any social media. Personally, I love interacting with my fans on social media, and I enjoy giving them more content to see and updates about what to expect from me in the future. Social media can be a scary place sometimes, and can be a real time suck if not monitored, but it does a whole lot of good, too.

Are you working on any project right now? What we should expect from you after Eliza and Her Monsters?

I’m always working on something! My two books so far have been contemporary novels, but what I really love is fantasy and science fiction. I have The Children of Hypnos, my serial novel published on Wattpad, that’s urban fantasy, and I actually do have a draft of the real Monstrous Sea written. I have fantasy books, I have near-future sci-fi books, I have horror books, I have all kinds of things! It’s mostly a question now of what people are going to want to see from me, and what will work best.


Book Details:

Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover, Ebook

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Book Links: Amazon | B&NBook Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Eliza and Her Monsters is instantly captivating, heartwarming, and immensely entertaining. It celebrates fandom, and online community without forgetting to remind readers the pros and cons of Internet fame.

Eliza Mirk in her school is a loner, quiet, shy and unknown. But online, she is the beloved LadyConstellation – anonymous creator and artist behind the hugely popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea with millions of passionate followers. She has online friends but only a handful few who really know her identity beside her own family. Though she communicate with her followers she never brave the chance to interact with them in person. Until she met Wallace, a die-hard fan of Eliza’s work, Monstrous Sea. But Wallace didn’t know Eliza as LadyConstellation. For him, Eliza is a friend who also love Monstrous Sea. Can Eliza share her identity to Wallace? What she will do if her online life and real life finally collide? How will she deal with her own monsters?

Eliza and Her Monsters depicts a realistic view of fandom in general. Through Eliza’s story and the webcomic inside it, we see how a subculture of fans and their world behave and operates. It’s a close representation of community that get together for the common love or passion.

“I do have friends. Maybe they live hundreds of miles away from me, and maybe I can only talk to them through a screen, but they’re still my friends. They don’t just hold Monstrous Sea together. They hold me together.”

While the story is about fandom and art, don’t make the mistake of dismissing how important this book is. Though lightly touch, Francesca Zappia incorporate mental illness such as anxiety, panic disorder, and selective mutism in the story. Eliza is an introvert who prefer conversing with her online friends than her family and classmates. For her, online world is better than real world. It is easier to navigate and much more welcoming. But as much as she love her online life, she cannot stay there forever. She is missing a lot of things. At some point she need to face the real wold and be brave. No matter how real her online life is, she still needs to be present in real world and live in it. She needs to face her own monsters both real and imaginary.

Then we have Wallace and his selective mutism. Wallace just like Eliza doesn’t participate much to real world. He communicate to Eliza mostly through writing. He prefer not talking and spend most of his time writing/translating the webcomic Monstrous Sea. This behavior is a form of anxiety disorder. Wallace may be really shy or has a social anxiety – conditions that is lightly address in the story but surely leave an impact.

Overall, Francesca Zappia takes a lighter approach in handling sensitive themes without disregarding the heaviness of the topics. With illustrations, convo messages, and graphic story snippets, Eliza and Her Monsters is a unique and creative story that is not only powerful but also compassionate.


* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Greenwillow Books an imprint of HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.


What’s up for Grab?

  • 2 ARCs of Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

The Rules:

  • Open PH residents only
  • There will be two (2) winners
  • Winner will be chosen and announced through rafflecopter
  • Prizes will be sent by tour host, Precious of Fragments of Life

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word

“Everyone’s got something. Some people are just better actors than others.”

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

Personal Thoughts:

2015 YA contemporary reads seems full of characters with mental health condition or it’s just my TBR is full of this type of books? Since I read All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven last January I’ve been stumbling with books that focus on mental health issues. It’s like “it’s the theme” of the year or the new fad in contemporary fiction.

So with the sea of fictions dealing with almost the same theme Every Last Word is expected to be just another contemporary read for me. But then Tamara Ireland Stone did something different by exploring her character’s dark thoughts. She didn’t just tell her readers how someone with mental health condition suffered but also live with their condition.

She let us experience Sam’s thoughts and surroundings as well as the silence, the gaps, and contradictions in Sam’s mind. Every unsaid thoughts, obsessions, hallucinations, or panic attacks from Sam’s brain are pieces of truth – unfiltered and raw.

Right from the start Tamara fed us with Sam’s deepest thoughts. Each of Sam’s dark ideas and feelings are laid open to the readers. It’s a tricky read because sometimes even Sam doesn’t aware which is really happening in her life and which is happening in her mind. Her internal struggle will surely be felt by the readers. The battle between the impulse to do something and the struggle to stop it is so constant that sometimes you will wish you can do something to help Sam. And when Sam is owning her condition, trying to fight her own mind, you will surely admire her. Her willingness to understand herself and her mental condition is so admirable which in returns will make readers want to do the same.

Tamara Ireland Stone brilliantly captured the life and experiences of someone who is living with OCD. She let us see, experience, and understand the mind and heart of those who are suffering with mental illness like Sam.

“You’ve made mistakes all your life and you’re going to keep making them….The Trick is to recognize your mistakes, take what you need form them, and move on.”

Every Last Word also tells us that sometimes we just need to own our craziness inside. To embrace it and recognize it as part of our unique traits instead of categorizing it as a weakness. It’s just a matter of perspective – by seeing things in different angle we can stop all the fears and start living and enjoying our life. We cannot control everything – not in our head, not in real life and as early as we accept that, we stop creating nightmares out of our own fears. Anxiety is just in our head, it cannot really harm us other than the power we give to it to effect our decisions and actions.

“My life might not be perfect and my brain might play tricks on me and I might be overwhelmed by own thoughts, but now that I think about it, I’m lucky to have as much as normal as I do. “

Every Last Word is an intense, insightful, and powerful novel that dig deep to the multiplicities and complexities of human mind and actions. It’s not only an entertaining read but also something that can create awareness about mental health conditions.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

“We are all alone, trapped in these bodies and our own minds, and whatever company we have in this life is only fleeting and superficial.”

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Personal Thoughts:

Halfway reading All the Bright Places I’m pretty sure how the story will end or how my review will goes. All the quotes I bookmarked and the few notes I managed to jot down in those little arrow post-its I’m using feels like very useful in my review until the story take the road I’m dreading. If I’m being honest, part of me knows the story will actually take the route the author chose, there are hints along the way but I keep on denying them hoping that Jennifer will actually go for the brighter road. I thought that was the title is telling me so I keep my hopes up, until the last part where it felt like all things shattered into pieces and left my heart in pain and my eyes teary.

That last part changed my feelings and view of the novel, making All the Bright Places more worthy read than just the usual YA contemporary book. It makes the novel more meaningful and profound by highlighting the reality of the character’s situation and condition.

Unlike with the author, I don’t have close experience with people who suffer from severe depression, bipolar disorder or other kinds of labels like those. I won’t understand them in the same level as those who have first hand or close experience. Reading this book though give me a piece of that experience. If anything else, All the Bright Places push me to be more sensitive to other people. To look deeper to my surroundings and people around me. To be more aware and more caring to others.

All the Bright Places somehow changed my view not only of suicide but also of mental illness. Reading the perspectives of both Finch and Violet gives me access to the thoughts and views of victim and survivor of suicide. Things we somehow knew but never really given thought of.

“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”

If you ask me before I read this book what’s my stand on suicide, you might get a firm answer from me being against it, now, if you will ask me again after reading this book I will still give you the same answer but with lesser conviction like the first, especially if we will factor mental illness in the story.

It’s easy to put blame to those who took their own lives. To view suicide as a cowardice or way-out when in fact we don’t have any idea of what’s really going on in their mind when they do it. When someone died out of cancer, people usually view it as a lost battle. We say, “he lost his battle with cancer” but when someone died due of suicide we put the blame to the victim so easily. But what if the victim is suffering with mental illness, should we still blame him? For what? For putting an end to his suffering? Why can’t we view it as a lost battle too, like those who suffer in cancer. Who knows how much they tried to fight their depression, and in the end lost their battle with it.

‘The fact is, I was sick, but not in an easily explained flu kind of way. It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.’

On the whole, All the Bright Places is an intense novel that delivers raw and exquisitely painful story. It realistically explore the dark and sensitive issue of depression, mental illness and suicide. All the emotions of life, love, and loss bleeds through the pages of this book and they all make it powerful and more beautiful.