Author Interview: Jeff Zentner on Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Jeff Zentner author photoJeff Zentner’s new novel Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is  a story about big dreams, big chances, and the mediocre results we sometimes end up with as a result. It is also a laugh-out-loud funny ode to friendship, creativity, and horror movies. This book totally snuck up on me and is fast becoming one of my favorite novels of the year. I’m very excited to have Jeff back today answering some of my questions.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee?

Jeff Zentner: One night, three years ago, I came home on a Saturday night and turned on the TV and started channel surfing. I never do this because I have a Netflix queue a mile long. I came to the Nashville public access station and it was playing a low budget horror movie. This was very strange. I kept watching, fascinated. The movie then cut to these two young women dressed in horror garb, named Marlena Midnite and Robyn Graves. They were the hosts of a syndicated public access show out of Davenport, Iowa called Midnite Mausoleum. I was fascinated. It was so goofy and fun and sweet. It got me thinking about who hosts these kinds of shows. I immediately started thinking up an idea about two young women who host their own public access creature feature.

MP: This novel alternates between Josie and Delia’s narrations. Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest?

JZ: I loved them equally. I loved writing Josie’s sense of humor, because it’s closest to my own. And I loved writing Delia’s sense of poetry about the world, because it’s closest to my own. I loved writing the relationship between Delia and her mother and the relationship between Josie and Lawson.

MP: Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is your third novel. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read and a bit of a departure from your previous novels which were much heavier stories. Did this shift in tone require a shift in your writing process? How did you go about channeling the quirkiness and humor to tell this story?

JZ: It did require a shift. I love very lyrical, poetic writing. But that sort of writing often comes at the cost of humor, so there wasn’t as much room for this kind of writing as in past books. As for channeling the humor, I love to joke around. It was just a matter of storing up humorous observations and insights and putting them in Josie and Delia’s mouths.

MP: How do you fit writing into your daily routine between working full time and other obligations? What does a typical writing day (or writing session) look like for you? Where are your favorite places to write?

JZ: I have a pretty intense and demanding day job, so I really have to fit writing into the cracks. I do 80 percent or so of my drafting on my iPhone with my right thumb on the bus to and from work. It’s not my favorite place to write, but it’s where I do most of my writing. My favorite place to write is my writing studio at home. I have a room devoted to it that’s full of favorite books, letters I’ve gotten from fans, scented candles, cool vintage bookshelves and typewriters, and my vintage pulp paperback collection. It smells like heaven. It’s so cozy and wonderful. I’ve never before lived in a house with a room devoted solely to work and creativity and it’s wonderful.

MP: So far, all of your novels exist in the same world with a few references (and even characters) traveling between books. Can you tell me anything about your next project? Can readers expect more connections between your novels?

JZ: My fourth novel is about two young people from small town East Tennessee who get scholarships to an elite northeastern prep school. As readers may (or may not) recall, Nana Betsy from Goodbye Days is from East Tennessee, and it turns out that my main character in this fourth book is her grandnephew. She has a small, but pivotal role in the new book. Also, if it survives the edit, there’s another really fun cameo from an important figure in the Zentnerverse!

Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can see more about Jeff and his books on his website.

You can also check out my review of Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee.

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Sometimes small and unspectacular things can be a universe.”

cover art for Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff ZentnerFor most of high school best friends Delia and and Josie have spent every Friday night transforming themselves into Delilah Darkwood and Rayne Ravenscroft, hosts of Midnite Matinee their public access show on TV Six where they show a campy B (or C) horror movie with their own shorts in between.

The movies are never good and Delia and Josie’s segments aren’t much better, but it’s their show that they built up from scratch which counts for a lot. Even if it isn’t enough to ensure the show will continue now that high school is ending.

Josie is eager to pursue her lifelong dream of being on television when she goes to college but isn’t sure what to do when her dreams might be leading her away from her hometown and her best friend.

Delia, meanwhile, is desperate to find a way to help Midnite Matinee grow beyond its current syndication so that Josie can pursue her dream without leaving Delia behind the way her father did.

With one last summer to make it big or call it quits, Delia and Josie’s friendship and their show will be tested as they confront old hurts, embrace new dreams, and take one epic road trip to a horror convention with the potential to change everything in Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee (2019) by Jeff Zentner.

Zentner’s latest standalone contemporary is a funny, strange story that explores all of the things that brought Josie and Delia together and all of the things that are starting to pull them in different directions.

Josie and Delia alternate first person narration in this story and by the end of the novel both girls completely won me over. Although Delia and Josie are facing some big decisions, they do it all with levity and obvious affection for each other as well as the other important people in their lives.

Zentner has filled this book with Easter eggs from his earlier novels as well as some amazing jokes–I can’t reveal too much but let’s just say I’m still cracking up about the baby Basset Hounds.

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is a story about big dreams, big chances, and the mediocre results we sometimes end up with as a result. Josie and Delia are hilarious, endearing, and some of my favorite characters to date. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Jeff about this book!

Four Dead Queens: A Review

cover art for Four Dead Queens by Astrid ScholteFour queens rule Quadara. Together, yet apart just like the country’s four quadrants: Archia, Eonia, Ludia, and Toria.

Keralie is one of the best thieves in all of Toria stealing missives, technology, and  contraband from other quadrants that her employer Mackiel can sell in his black market auctions. It isn’t the life Keralie’s parents’ ever imagined for her, but it is the one she’s been groomed for since she was ten.

Even Keralie’s skills prove insufficient when her latest target–a messenger from Eonia–discovers her theft. If he can’t make his delivery, Varin’s life could be forfeit leaving him with little choice but to follow Keralie to retrieve his stolen goods.

What starts as a simple exchange soon escalates when Keralie and Varin discover a plot to assassinate all of Quadara’s queens. With no one else to trust, Keralie and Varin have to set aside their mutual distrust to form a reluctant alliance if they want to escape Mackiel and capture the assassin in Four Dead Queens (2019) by Astrid Scholte.

Four Dead Queen‘s is a standalone adventure that’s part mystery, part thriller, and part speculative fiction.

Quadara and the individual quadrants have the potential to be fascinating backdrops for this story. Unfortunately Quadara is never situated in a larger world making the tension between the quadrants and outside threats feel forced if not entirely contrived. The politics of succession and Queenly Law (the rules that dictate how the quadrants are divided and ruled) also make very little sense and further underscore the poor development of this world.

Keralie’s first-person narration gives depth to both herself and Varin who is simultaneously her foil and her love interest. Sadly both protagonists stumble through the story without anything resembling agency as they are repeatedly driven from one reactive position to the next. The rest of the characters are exceedingly flat–a problem that is especially obvious with Mackiel the supposedly charming criminal mastermind who never once manages to come across as anything but slimy and manipulative.

Four Dead Queens is suspenseful and well-paced with high action and a deep sense of urgency as Keralie and Varin hunt the assassin. In contrast, the mystery’s resolution is a bitter disappointment as much of the actual intrigue comes more from the author’s deliberate manipulation of the story’s timeline and perspective rather than true plot twists.

It’s no surprise that this story has a body count but it’s both disappointing and problematic that two of the only queer characters characters and two of the only dark-skinned characters (including one raised in secret in two small rooms) are among the first victims. Varin’s position as an Eonian with a premature death date is also troubling and surprising as he comes from a quadrant known for its medical advancements and life-prolonging technologies.

Four Dead Queens is an interesting if sometimes frustrating mystery but the fantasy world framework of Quadara is shoddily built at best. A high-concept story that fails to capitalize on a unique world and instead remains painfully predictable and opaque.

Possible Pairings: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Rule by Ellen Goodlett, Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, Last of Her Name by Jessica Khoury, Divergent by Veronica Roth

Week in Review: February 16: Let me tell you about my week of meetings.

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

All I did at work this week was go to meetings. I got to see a lot of new branches and traverse much of Brooklyn but it was trying. I am not a great subway traveler and the weather was terrible. Here’s what went down:

On Monday I was in an all day leadership training. I’m the branch rep for a YA Network that was created to improve  services to teens in the library. We are looking into ways to make the library more welcoming to teens with improvements to the library’s mental, physical, and digital spaces for teens. The leadership training is a “perk” for participants. It’s very crunchy and kind of silly but some tips on active listening and identifying project stakeholders were helpful.

On Tuesday I had a meeting in the morning for said network where we continued to hammer out details on our plans. I also carried a succulent across Brooklyn to get it to my desk. And I fell in the branch’s lobby. My knee is super bruised now. Fun.

On Wednesday I had a class visit with a yeshiva school that is so Jewish it is named after the Star of David. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was kind of fun. The final score was me earning 30 points for Ravenclaw, silly sixth grade boys: zero. Then I had a quick lunch and headed to another branch for another training. This year I’m working as a facilitator for an initiative called Everyone Serves Youth where staffers travel to different branches (or in my case different divisions in my giant branch) to lead workshops on serving babies, kids, and teens in the library and how all staff can do that. The workshops are starting at the end of February so this meeting was to get more details, paperwork, and practice.

Thursday was my last day of the week (I worked last Saturday so I had this Friday off, it’s weird) and I ended it with a day filled with . . . more meetings!

The morning started with a meeting for the committee I chair to talk about what we’ll be doing at our next training. I showed everyone the summer reading lists (we’ll be booktalking these titles) shared deadlines, and asked about other ideas moving forward. I always feel like I’m probably the most tiresome person to be in charge but it was a good meeting and people seem to not be sick of me (or my copious emails and files) yet. I am also ridiculous and brought chocolate and punny valentines that were hilarious (and possibly underappreciated) for everyone. And I only shamed one committee member for not being goodreads friends. (We’re friends now. Because of the shaming.)

After that meeting I got lunch with some committee members which was a nice change since I usually eat alone at my desk. THEN I had a meeting with a work friend from my writing group and another work friend to help them start building a mini collection of books for their Cookmobile project (traveling cooking programs for teens) looking at fiction and nonfiction with books. I feel totally superfluous to this project but I did actually end up having a lot of book suggestions and input to share on the ordering process. Yay collection development.

Next I had an hour on the reference desk which was also a mini meeting with one of my interns who shadowed me. We talked about his experiences so far and expectations/plans moving forward and he helped me with a few patrons.

THEN I had my last meeting with two people about those Everyone Serves Youth workshops which I was worried about but the meeting didn’t actually help with worries. Go figure.

So that’s how my week of four big meetings in four different meetings over four days shook out.

Here is my favorite post that I shared on Instagram this week:

View this post on Instagram

Who is your favorite charming con man or con woman? ▪️ Although they aren’t quite conmen, Séverin and his crew are among my favorite incorrigible thieves. (I’m using this specific terminology because it’s actually a tag I use on my blog for reviews.) ▪️ I was so happy to come home from work on Saturday to find these character cards for preordering The Gilded Wolves had arrived. They’re just the best. ▪️ Have you read this one yet? Who is your favorite character? ▪️ #instabooks #currentlyreading #amreading #instareads #bookgram #bookworm #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #booktography #bookstagram #beautifulbooks #booksofinstagram #goodreads #prettybooks #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #booktalk #readersofinstagram #unitedbookstagram #thegildedwolves #roshanichokshi #uppercasebox

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How was your week? What are you reading?

Author Interview: Tiffany Schmidt on Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy

Tiffany Schmidt author photoBookish Boyfriends is filled with books, humor, and romance all framed around retellings of classic novels. The first installment, A Date With Darcy, follows Merrilee as she starts her sophomore year at Reginald R. Hero High School and discovers that, much to her surprise, the boys at this school might actually be better than her book boyfriends.

I really enjoyed this one and The Boy Next Story is one of my most anticipated sequels coming out in 2019. Today Tiffany Schmidt is here to answer some questions about her new series.

Miss Print (MP): Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy is the first book in your ongoing series. What was the inspiration for the series in general? What was the inspiration for this specific installment?

Tiffany Schmidt (TS): I’ve always been bookish. Even before I could sound out words and read to myself, I’d lug books to my parents and older sister and beg them to read to me. I’ve always wanted to live in the worlds between covers: the Hundred Acres Woods and Narnia and Hogwarts and Uriel and Klickitat Street. The idea for the Bookish Boyfriends series came from that love of stories and my desire to write myself into them. For A Date with Darcy, I specifically wanted to play around with my mis-reading of Romeo & Juliet as a romance when I was young, and also my deep, deep love of all things Austen and Pride and Prejudice. (Mr. Darcy fangirl forever!)

MP: This series blends contemporary romance with loose retellings of classic stories. A Date With Darcy features elements from Romeo and Juliet as well as Pride and Prejudice while The Boy Next Story promises hints of Little Women. How did you decide which stories to draw from for inspiration?

TS: The mentor texts for each of the Bookish Boyfriends novels was a book that was significant for me during my teenage reading years. As a misguided, quixotic middle schooler, I thought Romeo was dreamy. A year later I met my one true love in Mr. Darcy. And Little Women is a book I’ve returned to so many times over the years—seeing my own sister and myself in the March girls. There are so many books that impacted my life as a reader, and it’s such a joy to play with them within the Bookish Boyfriends world.

MP: Merrilee’s English teacher promises to help students find their story and guides Merrilee in particular to a book with life changing consequences. If you had to pick one book that had that kind of impact on you, which would it be?

TS: One book? Man, you’re asking the tough questions—and since there are MANY books that have impacted me, I’m pretty sure I give a different answer to this question each time I’m asked. Today I’m choosing Superfudge by Judy Blume as well as the Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary. I read these in second grade and so identified with young Farley Drexel Hatcher and Ramona Geraldine Quimby and their ability to accidentally get into trouble. The difference between their intentions and the outcomes of their actions resonated so strongly—and it still does. My eight year old twins are reading these books now, and it’s amazing to me how it’s been decades since I read them and I still remember them so vividly. I keep accidentally spoiling things for them. Whoops!

MP: Congratulations on signing on to write more books in this series! Did you always know that you wanted this world to expand to follow multiple characters? How much did you know about the world and the story (or stories) that you wanted to tell when you first started drafting?

TS: I had always hoped to write more Bookish Boyfriends novels, so I’d optimistically planned for it and typed with crossed-fingers. It was never a guarantee, so I am feeling grateful and blessed for the chance to share books three (Eliza’s story- aka, Talk Nerdy to Me) and four (Huck’s story aka Get a Clue). Eliza especially was a character who has demanded her own story from the very first page of book one, so it’s been percolating in my mind for quite a while. Even now, while I’m drafting book four, I’m keeping lists and notes about potential extensions and plots for more characters. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever get sick of writing these books, so as long as they find a readership, I’ll happily keep going

MP: Do you have a favorite character to write in Bookish Boyfriends? Is there any character you are particularly excited for readers to meet?

TS: I’m not going to lie, I had worried that no narrator would top Merrilee because she’s so effervescent and fun to write. But then I started Rory’s story and fell deeply in love with her little sister voice. Rory’s friend Huck was a bit of a surprise. While he has a tiny cameo in book 1 (props if you’ve spotted it!) readers truly meet him early in book two. He was a character that was instantly strong and clear in my head and who would’ve taken over if I hadn’t reined him in. Huck’s become the narrator of book four, Get a Clue, which I’ve only just begun drafting. I’ve got high hopes that he’ll be a reader favorite, because he’s certainly one of mine.

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project? What can readers expect in The Boy Next Story?

TS: The Boy Next Story is about sisters and first loves and finding your own identity outside of others’ expectations or the roles you’ve been assigned within family dynamics. It’s about unrequited love, and art class, and yoga, and Harry Potter, and kombucha, and fresh starts, and math class. And what happens when you outgrow your first crush, but maybe don’t outgrow the boy. And Little Women.

Thanks again to Tiffany for a great interview.

You can see more about Tiffany and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy here on the blog.

Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt

Merrilee Rose Campbell isn’t sure what to expect when she transfers to Reginald R. Hero High as a sophomore along with her best friend Eliza and her younger sister Rory. It will be her first time being in classes with boys since elementary school. Already convinced no real boy can live up to the swoony ones in all of the novels she loves, Merilee’s expectations for her new school are low.

But instead of the annoying mouth breathers she expects, it seems like every boy at Hero High has stepped out of one of Merrilee’s novels. Wherever she turns, she sees a swoon-worthy boy fit to be the romantic lead in his own story complete with all of the brooding mystery that Merrilee ever hoped for.

At first it seems like Merrilee might have found her own romance with Stratford Monroe inspired by the ultimate romantic duo: Romeo and Juliet. But it turns out that story isn’t anything like she thought.

Then there’s the fact that she keeps getting thrown together with Fielding Williams—the stuffy but handsome son of the headmaster–who seems to have a knack for always catching Merrilee at her most awkward and has no qualms about telling her he doesn’t think she’s Hero High material.

First impressions can be deceiving but Merrillee and Fielding might need more than one more chance if Merrilee is going to get over her pride and Fielding is going to let go of his prejudices in Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy (2018) by Tiffany Schmidt.

Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy is the first book in Schmidt’s latest ongoing series.

With humor and romance in equal measure, Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy is the rare book that can read up or down with strong appeal for teens of all ages.

It takes a while for the book to get to its Pride and Prejudice retelling subplot while Merrilee figures out how to deal with overly amorous Stratford when his attentions shift from flattering to overbearing. Although it slows down the beginning of the novel, this plot thread is an important conversation starter about consent and boundaries which Schmidt handles well.

This installment also introduces readers to characters they can expect to encounter in future installments including Merri’s surly and artistic younger sister Rory who returns later this year in The Boy Next Story.

Bookish Boyfriends is a fun new series filled with humor, books, and romance in equal measure perfect for readers who are bookish, romantics, or fans of the classics.

Possibles Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Last Best Story by Maggie Lehrman, Save the Date by Morgan Matson, From Twinkle, With Love by Sandya Menon, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma, Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Tiffany about Bookish Boyfriends.

The Wren Hunt: A Review

cover art for The Wren Hunt by Mary WatsonRaised by her grandfather, Wren Silke has grown up in Kilshamble, Ireland. She knows every inch of the town and the woods. And she knows that every year on Stephen’s Day she will be chased through the woods as part of the annual Wren Hunt.

The Wren Hunt is meant to be figurative–not an actual hunt. But the Judges–a group with magical connections to nature–take the hunt all too seriously chasing Wren until they draw blood. As Augurs–people who can use patterns and connections to see the future–Wren and her community are in the minority in Kilshamble. With Judges controlling most of the nemeta–objects from which both groups draw power–it’s only a matter of time before the Augurs are wiped out entirely.

Eager to help and imagining a future where she won’t be hunted, Wren volunteers to help the Augurs reclaim their advantage (and hopefully some nemeta) by going undercover at Harkness House. But nothing is as it seems among the Judges or the Augurs and soon Wren will have to decide who she can truly trust as she tries to end this bloody feud in The Wren Hunt (2018) by Mary Watson.

The Wren Hunt is Watson’s first foray into YA fantasy.

Wren’s first-person narration is tense and often claustrophobic as Wren tries to stop the latest hunt and only manages to escalate it instead. Her frenzied, stream-of-consciousness style narration is fast-paced and immediate.

Atmospheric descriptions and the eerie opening go far to pull readers into the story and bring Kilshamble to life. Unfortunately the magic system is never explored (or explained) at length making it difficult for readers to keep up with Wren as she is drawn into internal politics and soon caught between both groups in her role as a spy.

The Wren Hunt is a strange and sometimes messy story with an intricate plot set in a complex world. Watson artfully explores themes of agency and loyalty though fails to deliver a truly satisfying fantasy. Recommended for readers who like their books to be part story to absorb and part puzzle to assemble.

Possible Pairings: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold, The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst, Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox, Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier, Mister Monday by Garth Nix

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*