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.

Find it on Bookshop.

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.

Author Interview: Tiffany Schmidt on Break Me Like a Promise

Tiffany Schmidt author photoBreak Me Like a Promise was one of my most-anticipated 2016 releases. It also wound up being one of the books I most needed to read. Tiffany Schmidt is here today to talk about Break Me Like a Promise, the second book in her Once Upon a Crime Family series.

MP: Break Me Like a Promise is the second book in your Once Upon a Crime Family series? What was the specific inspiration for this story? What drew you to The Frog Prince as source material?

TS: When I decided to tell Maggie’s story in Break Me Like a Promise, I knew right away that it was going to be about the mismatch between the way the world perceived Maggie (So feisty! So Strong! Unbreakable!) and the way she was currently feeling (very, very broken!). It’s not that Maggie isn’t strong, even in her broken state, it’s that no one around her is willing to give her space or time to heal or recover from the traumas she’s experienced. They’re all so impatient for her to ‘bounce back’ and don’t even want to acknowledge that what she’s been through may have irreversibly changed her.

Pairing Maggie’s story with The Frog Prince felt natural to me. That fairy tale is all about a promise the princess never has any intention of keeping—a promise she’s backed into and then has held over her head. In a similar way Maggie feels cornered and blackmailed into making and keeping the deal she arranged with Alex. Though she has no idea of the implications and complications when she first made the promise.

MP: After reading both books in this series, it’s pretty clear that both books have their individual, contained stories while also moving along a larger plot that spans the series. How much did you know about the arc of this series when you started writing it? Did you always know book two would belong to Maggie?

TS: When I began writing the Once Upon a Crime Family books I didn’t intend for them to be a series at all. I thought Hold Me Like a Breath would be a stand alone and planned and began to write it as such. This changed the second Magnolia Grace Vickers stepped onto the pages of Penny’s story. I immediately had her voice in my head—and there was so much more to her and about her than fit in that narrative. Maggie is such a larger-than-life person for Penny, it was really fun to swap perspectives and get to narrate from inside Maggie’s experience. Since so many other threads within the crimes families and world couldn’t be tied up neatly in book one, it was great to have a chance to explore them through her story.

MP: Break Me Like a Promise has a mostly new cast of characters including Alex, a computer expert in need of a kidney transplant. What kind of research went into getting details about Alex’s health and his computer expertise right in the story?

TS: Alex was a really complicated character to write and I hope I did him justice. For his computer expertise I sent lots of questions to a writer friend whose husband is currently getting his PhD in something complicated and technical. Our emails were pathetically ignorant (on my side) and impressively complicated (his side) — we found a great middle ground when his wife ended up drafting his responses in dialogue form. For Alex’s kidney disease I turned to message boards/forums, doctors, parents of patients, and medical research journals. This is the third time I’ve tackled a medical condition in a novel (also Send Me a Sign and Hold Me Like a Breath) but it never gets easier to hear stories of other people’s pain. I didn’t ever intentionally set out to focus so frequently on medical issues (um, see the next question!) but there’s such an intense pressure and responsibility to get it right and make sure that patients dealing with these conditions find themselves respectfully and accurately depicted. Whenever I hear from a reader that they’ve identified with or related to what one of my characters is going through, it’s the best reward. I’m so touched and grateful that they’ve shared with me. I think it is so important that everyone should be able to find themselves represented in a book.

MP: You’ve mentioned before that you have a blood phobia which is a trait that you also gave to Maggie in this novel. What was it like to include something that you are so personally familiar with? Was it hard getting to that place with Maggie while writing?

TS: Ha! Gifting Maggie with my blood phobia was the ONLY way I could get through this book, which feels pretty ironic since Hold Me Like a Breath had murders and blood tests and injuries too. But the research and videos for dialysis hit right at my phobia trigger points. There were several times I had to stop researching to lie down with a wet cloth (yes, I DO know that makes me ridiculous!) The thing was, blood phobia is also such an absurd thing for Maggie to have. She’s the heir of a crime family that traffics in body parts. A person who prides herself on being so mentally tough. This phobia is such an achilles heel for her—and makes her incredibly self-conscious. Once I thought through that angle, I was doubly delighted to pass my fear along to Maggie: it works for my convenience, but also to amp the plot tension. Win!

MP: One of the neat things about Break Me Like a Promise is that it has a very different structure from Hold Me Like a Breath. We still have some romance and humor but there is also a sense of urgency with a tighter plot set over a shorter span of time. As a writer, how did you go about pacing this story and keeping up the tension?

TS: The majority of Break Me Like a Promise takes place on Maggie’s ranch in Texas. With such a small setting, I knew the plotting and pacing needed to move faster or the book would start to feel claustrophobic and stagnant. Hold Me Like a Breath has murders to drive the plot forward—but the ticking clock in Break Me Like a Promise is no less urgent—political deadlines and Alex’s health. All of the lies and truths Maggie is juggling can only stay hidden for so long, and knowing that everything is going to come crashing down lends another layer of tension as well. I used a calendar and a lot of color coding to do the planning on this book—keeping in mind the timeline and way each plot point needed to push forward made it easier to makes sure that the different threads built on each other and propelled everything forward.

breakmecalendar
(this is what remained of the calendar by the end of revisions. I’d already begun erasing aspects off as I resolved them…)

MP: Maggie is a no-nonsense character with a very unique voice and a personal outlook that changes throughout the novel as she learns more about herself and the Family Business. I loved this book and I loved reading about Maggie’s strength and resilience as she moves forward after book one.  Was her development something that had to be plotted out? Did it come more naturally as the story progressed?

TS: I’m so delighted that you enjoyed Maggie and identified so strongly with her. As a character Maggie’s voice was so clear in my head—but it was also so hard to spend time in hers because of all the pain she was in. You’re so right to call her resilient, but that resilience comes at such a personal cost to Maggie, and being in that headspace — let’s just say, I cried more writing this book than all my others combined! I spent quite awhile mapping out her arc. While I don’t outline, I knew where I wanted her to start and where I wanted her to end up. Figuring out the exact trajectory that would get her there—complete with complications, setbacks, impossible odds, and her feisty spirit—was the work of lots of revision and incredible patience and insight on the part of my editors and critique partners.

MP: Did you have a favorite character to write in Break Me Like a Promise? Is there any character you are particularly excited for readers to meet?

TS: I’m going to answer this as *besides Maggie*, because I’m pretty sure my love for her came through in my last answer. But on top of Magnolia Grace, there are so many secondary characters that I’m excited for readers to meet. James, Lupe, and Alex are three that first come to mind, but Maggie’s parents are also some of my favorite characters I’ve written. It was also really entertaining to write Penny from an outsider’s perspective — so it’ll be fun for readers of book 1 to see that too. Ugh, but if you’re going to make me pick ONE character, I’ll answer James. He’s grown up in the Vickers Family with Maggie and the complicated way this has corroded and strengthened and undermined their friendship was really challenging and intense to craft. Both Maggie and James are so aware of how much they’ve hurt each other in their efforts to get ahead within the Family, but both really cherish the days before Family competition crushed their friendship. The dynamic between Maggie and James as they tried to untangle the ways they’ve betrayed and manipulated each other so that they can get back to that place of loyalty and trust was one of the hardest parts of the book. He was a character that grew on me unexpectedly, and I’m excited for readers to meet him.

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 Hold Me Like a Breath and Break Me Like a Promise here on the blog.

Break Me Like a Promise: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Break Me Like a Promise is the second book in Schmidt’s Once Upon a Crime Family series which begins with Hold Me Like a Breath. This review features spoilers for book one*

Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany SchmidtMagnolia Vickers has spent years convincing her father and the other Family men that she is much more than a decorative young woman destined to spend her life on the periphery of their Business in illegal organ trafficking.

After a staggering loss, the future Maggie has been planning as her father’s successor is precarious at best. Worse, Maggie’s recent behavior has ruined her carefully constructed reputation with almost everyone in the Family–not to mention her parents.

Maggie is forced to set her grief and loneliness aside when a computer virus brings trouble to the Family. When Alex, the computer expert hired to fix the virus, brings his demands for a new kidney to the Family he quickly becomes Maggie’s problem.

As she learns more about Alex and the changing legislation, Maggie realizes that Alex can be more to her than a source of constant frustration–a lot more. But first Maggie will have to use everything she’s learned about the Family Business to help them move forward in a world with legalized organs and make sure Alex survives long enough to get his new kidney in Break Me Like a Promise (2016) by Tiffany Schmidt.

Find it on Bookshop.

Break Me Like a Promise is the second book in Schmidt’s Once Upon a Crime Family series which begins with Hold Me Like a Breath. This novel features a different narrator and is set months after the events of book one. Although it contains spoilers for the first book in the series, it largely functions as a contained story. In this unconventional retelling, Schmidt incorporates elements from “The Frog Prince” into her unique world where organ transplants are illegal.

Given the premise (fairy tale retellings with organized crime!), I always knew this series was going to become one of my favorites. I wasn’t surprised when I enjoyed reading about Penny in Hold Me Like a Breath and I wasn’t surprised when I realized Break Me Like a Promise was easily one of my most highly anticipated 2016 titles.

Some reading experiences are more personal than others and such was the case here. Schmidt completely surpassed my expectations with her careful plotting and thoughtful writing. Every single piece of Break Me Like a Promise matters and every piece works to make the whole even more powerful.

The thing that really shines in this novel are the characters–especially Maggie. I identified a lot with Maggie and was deeply affected by her journey in this novel. That (along with the stellar plot and writing) is what made Break Me Like a Promise a standout novel for me.

I’ve talked before about hitting a rough patch a couple of years ago. I wrote a guest post about that overwhelming feeling of being in over my head and feeling lost. I even talked about seeing some of that struggle mirrored in a different book. I’ve started thinking of that time as triage because I was just going day-to-day and trying to get through because it was too hard and too scary to try and think further ahead.

Things are better now. Things are actually good. But while I was reading Break Me Like a Promise and watching Maggie work through the initial shock and grief of Carter’s death, I realized that I had been holding onto a lot of my stress and anxiety and mindsets from those bad years. I’m often too hard on myself and don’t treat myself very well as a result. I keep asking myself, “What else can go wrong? What if something happens?” It’s easy to think that once a traumatic event is over, that’s the end. It’s time to move on. But recovery–even for the person who was physically fine throughout, like me–doesn’t work that way. I have realized that I don’t remember who I was before my rough patch. I don’t know who I could be moving forward. I lost track of that somewhere.
My situation isn’t at all like Maggie’s but I identified so much with her throughout Break Me Like a Promise. It’s incredibly moving and powerful to watch Maggie’s growth during her story arc and to see her make sense of herself without Carter and as she makes her way in the world.
I recommend this series to fans of fairy tale retellings as well as sleek mysteries like White Cat or Heist Society.
Break Me Like a Promise is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year and it’s also one I needed badly. I don’t think words can ever truly convey how much this book means to me but I hope the words in this review might convince you to check out Break Me Like a Promise for yourself. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt broken and wondered how to be anything else; for the people who have moved on and for the people who are still trying to find their way. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Heist Society by Ally Carter, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Be sure to check out my interview with Tiffany about the book starting tomorrow!

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

Hold Me Like a Breath: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany SchmidtIn a world where organ donation is strictly regulated, Penelope Landlow’s Family helps those who can’t afford to wait for legal organ transplants . . . as long as they can afford to pay black market prices.

With rival families and upstarts jockeying for position, Penelope knows as well as anyone that the Family business is dangerous. With the Organ Act making its way through congress she also knows the Family business is on the verge of a major change.

Thanks to an autoimmune disorder called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) that causes excessive bruising and bleeding, Penelope also knows she’ll never really be a part of the Family business–changes or not.

With her entire family, and even her lifelong crush, convinced that she is far too fragile for the Family business or anything resembling a normal life, Penelope spends her days dreaming of NYC, shopping, watching C-Span, and wandering her family’s lavish estate.

It isn’t enough.

When disaster strikes, Penelope is thrust into a world of secrets and betrayals she is ill-equipped to understand. As she struggles to make sense of her shattered past and shape her own future she’ll also learn that life isn’t always a fairy tale. Sometimes you have to make your own happy ending in Hold Me Like a Breath (2015) by Tiffany Schmidt.

Find it on Bookshop.

Hold Me Like a Breath is the first book in Schmidt’s Once Upon a Crime Family trilogy. It is loosely inspired by the story “The Princess and the Pea.”

Penelope is an interesting heroine in that she is spunky while also being painfully naive thanks to her sheltered upbringing. Although she is fragile because of her ITP, Penelope is not easily broken as she demonstrates repeatedly throughout the narrative.

With organized crime, black market organs and murder as part of the plot, Hold Me Like a Breath is not your typical fairy tale romance. Sweet moments of first love are tempered with suspense and action as Penelope tries to make sense of the catastrophe that leaves her alone for the first time.

Hold Me Like a Breath is an engaging mystery and coming-of-age story complete with twists that turn the narrative completely upside down not once but twice. A romantic lead who sees Penelope as a true equal helps move the romance here from saccharine and sweet to rock solid and empowering.

Schmidt blends elements of mystery and romance in this retelling that is as unique as it is exciting. In addition to nods to the source material, this book also builds a world that is developed down to the finest details and includes a diverse cast of characters who readers will look forward to seeing in book two. Hold Me Like a Breath is a clever page-turner with a heroine who learns what it takes to chase her own happily ever after in this sensational start to what is sure to be a marvelous series.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Stain by A. G. Howard, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

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

You can also check out my interview with Tiffany!

Author Interview: Tiffany Schmidt on Hold Me Like a Breath

Tiffany Schmidt author photoTiffany Schmidt’s novel Hold Me Like a Breath has been on my radar since I first heard about it. A fairy tale retelling with organized crime and blackmarket organs? Obviously I was completely on board. Happily, Hold Me Like a Breath did not disappoint. In fact, it only made me even more excited about Tiffany’s Once Upon a Crime Family series. Tiffany is here today to talk a little more about this latest novel.

MP: What was the inspiration for Hold Me Like a Breath? What drew you to The Princess and the Pea as source material?

TS: I was fascinated by The Princess and the Pea when I was a child. It was one of my favorite stories in my big book of fairy tales. BUT, I always felt like it inspired more questions than answers: why was the princess alone in the woods, what happened to her family, why is it important that she bruises, etc, etc. So many questions that my parents had to ban it as a bedtime story since it got me so riled up just when they wanted me to settle down and sleep.

All these years later, Hold Me Like a Breath is my attempt to answer those questions.

MP: Working off the last question, when did you know organized crime and organ trafficking were parts of this story?

TS: Right away I knew this would be a crime family novel. As soon as I decided I wanted to write a modernized version of The Princess and the Pea, I knew I wouldn’t be including royal families and that I wanted to situate the ‘princess’ in a crime family instead.

The idea of organ trafficking took a bit longer to settle on. I knew I wanted the morality of the crime families to be ambiguous – I want them to be criminal and dark, but also create some good in the world. There are many, many shades of gray in the Landlow Family’s morality—which made writing their story all the more fun.

MP: Penelope has an autoimmune disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura or ITP. What kind of research was involved in getting Penelope’s symptoms and treatments just right?

TS: ITP has such a range of manifestations and treatments, that there really isn’t any single way of getting it ‘just right’—because every patient’s experiences with the disorder and the way they manage treatment varied widely. I spent a lot of time researching, asking questions on patient forums and via email, and getting in touch with doctors who specialize in treating ITP and other platelet disorders.

And once I had a fix on the way the disorder is typically handled, I wrote Penny counter to this. Penny’s treatment of ITP is more conservative than the typical for an ITP patient. Since money and access to medical care aren’t an obstacle for her parents, they’ve gone with a very cautious treatment plan.

The Landlow’s choice of treatment methods is a testament to how fragile they see her. This, plus their rule that no one is allowed to touch her, say much more about their dangerous lifestyle and overprotective attitudes, than they do about Penny’s actual health.

MP: Penelope loves New York City even before she sees it. How did you decide what parts of the city to highlight in Hold Me Like a Breath? Which real locations were you excited to include?

TS: The energy of New York City and its unpredictable chaos are the perfect counterpoint to Penny’s tedious and controlled life on her family’s estate. I have maps and maps I made to keep locations straight when I was planning that aspect of Hold Me. I even walked some of the routes she takes when she and Char meander through the city.

But of all the New York locations I included in Hold Me, I had the most fun planning the scenes in the American Museum of Natural History. When I went to research this, I brought my family and we met up with my editor and the assistant at my literary agency. We made a day of it, had lunch (Shake Shack!), visited a few Central Park playgrounds, and then explored the museum—taking all sorts of pictures and chatting up potential settings for a few key scenes. I recently visited again and it was surreal to stand in parts of the museum and have lines from the book running through my head. I kept turning around and expecting to see Penny or Char behind me.

MP: In addition to a fairy tale retelling this story has a bit of romance and a lot of mystery. As a writer, how did you go about pacing this aspect of the story and deciding what to reveal when?

TS: Penny’s world is so small at the beginning of the book. She’s confined to her family’s estate and has no real friends or confidants outside of the Landlow crime family. She makes a joke early in the novel that if she was allowed to go to school she’d meet other people, and maybe then she’d have a crush on someone other than her brother’s best friend. Because like Penny’s only friend is her nurse, the only boy she could possibly swoon over is the only one she knows—Carter’s best friend.

Penny needs her world to grow. She needs to meet people, talk to them. She needs to find her own limits and define herself.

There’s that relationship advice that’s often quoted “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” I’d add that in Penny’s case, she can’t love someone else until she knows herself. The pacing of the book and the romances matches the speed of her self-discovery. Incremental and slow at places, but dramatic and all at once in others. Fearful and hesitant at times, and courageous and reckless at others.

It’s a fairy tale retelling, so of course I got to play with the idea of love at first sight—but I spin it on its head a little—just like Penny’s boy next store isn’t actually boy-next-door-ish, her love at first sight, isn’t actually first sight. I also loved toying with the idea of secret identities but true selves.

MP: The characters in this book, including Penelope, have some great names. How did you go about finding the perfect name for each character?

TS: Penelope à Penelo-pea > Princess and the Pea

Garrett sounds a lot like “garrote” > he’s been raised to be a weapon

Magnolia Grace > This name reflects her parents’ expectations for her to be beautiful and feminine. > Maggie revels in smashing out of the boxes people would like to put her in or the limits they’ve set for her.

Char > *shrug* He sizzles :)

MP: Did you have a favorite character to write in Hold Me Like a Breath? Is there any character you are particularly excited for readers to meet?

TS: Oh, geez. This is a hard question. Hmm. I’m going to say Penny’s brother, Carter, is my favorite character.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

TS: I’m about to start copyedits on book two of the Once Upon a Crime Family series, Break Me Like a Promise. This book picks up a couple months after Hold Me Like a Breath ends and is told from the point of view of the daughter of a different crime family: Magnolia Vickers.

It’s about Maggie dealing with the fallout of [redacted] and trying to [redacted]. Realizing she’s 100% wrong about [redacted] and maybe, just maybe [redacted, redacted, redacted].

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

TS: Find a community. Writing is such a solitary process—just you, your computer, and the voices in your head. It’s so important to have people to support you along the way. Join a critique group—doesn’t matter if it meets online or in person—but these people will cheer your successes, offer advice during your murky middles, and pep talks during the endless waiting that surrounds ALL parts of publishing. Critique partners or writing friends are like outsourcing your sanity. They’ll hold your hand and pick you back up—unsnarl messy plots and find ways to build bridges over pot holes. I don’t know what I’d do without mine. I hope I never have to find out! <3

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 Hold Me Like a Breath here on the blog.