Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Niki Lenz here to share about her new MG humorous contemporary THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP. It sounds like a great story that is funny but also deals with contemporary issues that middle graders go through. Niki is also the author of another MG funny book, BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN, which got fantastic reviews.
Here’s a blurb of THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP from Goodreads:
After Grace's mom died, she and her dad grew extra close. They have special nicknames and are always busy with new projects-like building a puppy condo for their dog, Potus- and they love learning random facts about the US presidents. Grace thinks her little family of two is perfect.
Then some committee members at church suggest it's time for Dad to start dating again. And Dad agrees! Grace knows that adding a new member to the team will end in disaster.
No problem! She and her best friend have a plan: Operation Stepmoom Shake-Up! But what if a little shake-up is exactly what Grace's family needs?
Reverse PARENT TRAP-like antics offer a hilarious and heartwarming look at what it means to be a family.
Hi Niki! Thanks so much for joining us!
1. Tell us about yourself.
Hi! I am a wife and mom of two and I live here in Kansas City. I recently found out I will be adding “first grade teacher” to the bio in the 2020 school year. I love reading, writing, travel, jigsaw puzzles, glamping, red lipstick, and oldies music.
2. Congrats on your new job. Where did you get the idea for THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP?
My husband and I were hosting a small dinner party, and I am bad at small talk, so I asked everyone to share a childhood memory. One of the guys said that his father was a minister and he and his brother used to go with him to the hospital when he would pray with people. The kids would run around and play hide and seek in the hospital while their dad did the rounds. For some reason that image stuck with me and a few days later I wrote a scene with a girl and her best friend going with her preacher Dad to the hospital. The characters wouldn’t leave me alone and so a rough draft began to form. In the ironic ways of the writing process that scene later got cut, but that is where it all began.
3. Writing a humorous story sounds really hard to me, but you seem really good at it. How do you incorporate humor into your stories? What advice do you have for other authors?
Well, the biggest advantage I have in that department is that my sense of humor never seemed to I think kids can tell when you are trying too hard to entertain them. It’s also important to spend a lot of time around real life kids. Listen to how they talk and what they find funny.
develop past the level of a twelve year old! When I am writing, I am not necessarily thinking “What will kids think is funny?” I am thinking “What do I think is funny?” I write to amuse myself.
4. That's great advice. Share a bit about Grace, the main character in your story. Was she a well-developed character in your mind when you started writing her story or did this come later?
Grace came to me fully formed because she is based largely on my own daughter. I love her free
5. That's so funny how the Dad character turned into your husband.What was a challenge you faced in writing THE STEPMOM SKAKE-UP? How did you overcome it?
The biggest struggle with writing THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP was the sheer amount of revisions we ended up doing. I did an extensive round with my agent, then another before acquisitions, then my first edit letter with my editor. At that point I felt like we should be pretty close to being done. Ha ha, no. The next round of edits involved an entirely new outline. I was scrambling to add brand new scenes and to cut whole characters. I cried every time I opened that edit letter. But you know what, in the end I think the story is stronger for it. It was during that ghastly round of edits that, in a move of desperation, I asked my daughter what she would do if she were trying to make two grown-ups fall in love. Without skipping a beat she said, “I’d give them one milkshake with two straws.” I turned on my heels and wrote that scene, which later inspired the new title and the cover art!
6. That does sound like a lot of revisions. Your agent is Kate Shafer Testerman. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like for your first and second book?
I had queried three other novels to about one hundred agents each. So if you are good at math, that means three hundred rejections. But I had a good feeling about my fourth novel. It had gotten some attention in an online contest and had a strong hook. So I narrowed my list to the top fifteen agents, my dream agents. Kate was on that list. She had been such an amazing partner in all of this. That fourth book didn’t sell, but BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN sold in the first round of subs to Random House. It was truly a dream come true. THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP was my option book and having the publisher decide to acquire it too felt like lightning striking twice.
7. I saw on your website that you had a virtual launch party on June 17thto celebrate the release of your book. Share how you set this up and your plans for the event.
I am still hoping to work with my local library and indie bookstore to create an event that will be interactive and fun. We are brainstorming games, photo challenges, prizes and all kinds of fun.
8. How else are you planning to promote your book in these challenging times? What advice do you have for other authors whose books will be released soon?
The one thing that I learned after my first book came out is that you can really grind yourself into the
9. I really like your idea of thinking of promotions as an opportunity to give to others. BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN released in March 2019 and was your debut book. I’m always curious to learn what authors have learned from their experience being a debut author and what they might have done differently. What did you learn from that process and what would you have done differently, especially in terms of promoting your book and developing your social platform?
Being a debut author is strange. You go from very high highs ( LOOK! MY BOOK IS ON THIS LIST!) to very low lows ( SOMEONE JUST LEFT A SUPER MEAN REVIEW). I think the biggest thing that new authors should remember is that you wrote a book and that is an amazing accomplishment. Try not to compare your experience with anyone elses, because you will always feel like things aren’t fair. And just celebrate every little victory along the way. I am not the person to ask about promoting or social platforms. I just try to be myself and help and give when I can.
10. What are you working on now?
I actually just bombarded my poor agent with three middle grade manuscripts and one picture book
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Niki. You can find Niki at www.nikilenz.com, follow her on Twitter @NikiRLenz, Instagram @Smile4Niki and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NikiLenzAuthor/
Niki is generously offering a signed hardback of THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by July 4th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (Wednesday for me this month) is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.
Here's what's coming up:
Wednesday, July 1st I have Chrys Fey here with a guest post and an e-book giveaway of one of her books and my IWSG post
Monday, July 6th I have an interview with debut author Ash Van Otterloo and a giveaway of her contemporary/fantasy CATTYWAMPUS FYI I read an ARC & loved it!
Monday, July 13th, I have interview with debut author Karin Biggs and giveaway of her YA fantasy THE KING'S 100
Monday, July 20th, I have with Jess Redman and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Quintessence
Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway
Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song
Wednesday, July 29th I have an agent spotlight interview with Erin Casey and a query critique giveaway
Hope to see you on Wednesday, July 1st!