Interview & Giveaway: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin, authors of A Really Awesome Mess

Kicking off the Fall Festival, I have authors Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin here at The Hiding Spot to chat about their new book, A Really Awesome Mess! Both Cook & Halpin are incredibly funny and charming… and these qualities definitely flavor their co-authored novels. Also, don’t forget to enter to win your own copy of this fantastic title via the form below!


The Interview

Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?

Trish: The scene where Emmy and Justin are running through the cornfield trying to get to the Farm Sanctuary was difficult for me to write because I’ve never lived in the country, only suburbs and cities. I kept asking my friends who grew up in rural areas, “How is corn planted? In rows? Are they even? Wide enough to run through? If you were really short, would the stalks hit you as you went by? In the face, shoulders, what? How high would corn have grown by August?” They were like, enough with the corn questions already.

Brendan: It was difficult for me at times to articulate the way Justin was feeling. I’ve had issues with depression myself (though not as severe as Justin’s) so I was able to call on my own memories, but I did find it challenging to translate the feelings into words.

 Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?

Trish: Ha! The whole time we were writing it, Brendan and I intended the title to be Escape from Assland, and generally referred to it as Assland for short. We were really bummed—but probably not all that surprised—when the marketing people told us to change it. So then we went around and around, trying to figure out a new title we liked as much. It was NOT easy, and I think in the end, we both still wish it had been named EFA. But here’s a little secret: On the back cover, you can faintly make out the word Assland in the faded school crest. I love the cover designer for adding that in there.

Brendan: I don’t really have anything to add to Trish’s Assland story except to say that I still think that’s an awesome title.

What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?

Trish: I would have to say Judy Blume. I was always so blown away by her honesty and handling of sensitive subjects. I love the way she takes kids’ and teens’ problems seriously, and never talks down to her readers.

Brendan: Probably Stephen King. When I was a teenager, I read everything he’d written up to that point.  I’ve always really admired the way he sells the supernatural stuff with his keen observations of human behavior.  That’s true even in his lesser works: there’s a part in Dreamcatcher where an alcoholic literally risks his life for the beers in the trunk of his car that is probably the most devastating indictment of alcoholism I’ve ever read.

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

Trish: I worked for a long time writing insurance brochures. If you think that sounds like the world’s most boring writing job, you’re right. However, it was also an excellent training ground for learning to write clearly, succinctly, and sometimes, creatively when I had a particularly cool client. My mentors at the consulting firm where I worked taught me so many valuable lessons about what good writing is, as well as how to effectively edit my work and graciously accept a critique.

Brendan:  I was a high school teacher for ten years, which definitely influenced my YA work.  I have also sorted mail, delivered airline tickets (back when there was such a thing), and worked as a caddy.Caddying was the worst job I’ve ever had. I attended private school on a scholarship, so I used to come off 4 hours hauling a heavy bag across the golf course and see my classmates cavorting in the country club pool. It was seriously like something out of a movie.

 If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?

Trish: It’s a tie between JOY and GRATITUDE. Joy, because I think it’s the ultimate goal. And gratitude, because I think we sometimes fail to recognize the joy that already exists in so many little moments every day, and should try to become more aware and grateful for these.

Brendan:  Today I was talking to my students about the word “cesspool,” so that’s kind of in my brain right now. I like that one a lot.  I’m sure there are more, but cesspool is taking up all the great word space right now.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?

Trish: WHO: My family
              WHAT: The beach
              WHERE: Surf City, Long Beach Island every August

Brendan:  When I’m writing, I can totally get in the zone when I get lost in the story and completely forget everything else.  It’s really one of the main reasons I write.

Find out more about Trish and her books here!
Find out more about Brendan and his books here!

More About the Book:
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves. 

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy. 

Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends. 

A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.


Earn extra entries by following the Fall Festival blogs listed here!


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Giveaway: Notes from Ghost Town and The Butterfly Clues

I’ve got finished copies of Kate Ellison’s Notes from Ghost Town and The Butterfly Clues to give away to a lucky winner at The Hiding Spot. Find out more about Notes from Ghost Town below and enter for your chance to win!


About the Book

They say first love never dies…
From critically acclaimed author Kate Ellison comes a heartbreaking mystery of mental illness, unspoken love, and murder. When sixteen-year-old artist Olivia Tithe is visited by the ghost of her first love, Lucas Stern, it’s only through scattered images and notes left behind that she can unravel the mystery of his death. 
There’s a catch: Olivia has gone colorblind, and there’s a good chance she’s losing her mind completely—just like her mother did. How else to explain seeing (and falling in love all over again with) someone who isn’t really there?
With the murder trial looming just nine days away, Olivia must follow her heart to the truth, no matter how painful. It’s the only way she can save herself.

About the Author 

Kate Ellison spent a lot of time as a child, in Baltimore, pretending to be things she wasn’t: a twin, a telekinetic, a benevolent witch with a box full of magical stones, a spy, a soccer player. She trained as an actor in Chicago and has walked across the entire country of Spain. She is a painter and jewelry-maker, and has at least one artist friend who really does keep his true name a secret from the world. He told her, but don’t ask her to tell you—she’s not gonna do it. Kate lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Butterfly Clues is her first novel. Find out more about Kate here!


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Giveaway: Nobody and Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’ve got finished copies of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Nobody and Every Other Day to give away to a lucky winner at The Hiding Spot. Find out more about Nobody below and enter for your chance to win!


About the Book
There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away. 

That’s why they make the perfect assassins.
The Institute finds these people when they’re young and takes them away for training. But an untrained Nobody is a threat to their organization. And threats must be eliminated.
Sixteen-year-old Claire has been invisible her whole life, missed by the Institute’s monitoring. But now they’ve ID’ed her and send seventeen-year-old Nix to remove her. Yet the moment he lays eyes on her, he can’t make the hit. It’s as if Claire and Nix are the only people in the world for each other. And they are—because no one else ever notices them.

Check out Jen’s website and this video, in which she discusses Every Other Day:

About the Author 

Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has been, in turn, a competitive cheerleader, a volleyball player, a dancer, a debutante, a primate cognition researcher, a teen model, a comic book geek, and a lemur aficionado. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, finished her first full book (which she now refers to as a “practice book” and which none of you will ever see) when she was still in high school, and then wrote Golden the summer after her freshman year in college, when she was nineteen. 

Jen graduated high school in 2002, and from Yale University with a degree in cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought) in May of 2006. She’ll be spending the 2006-2007 school year abroad, doing autism research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.


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Win Kristina McBride’s One Moment and The Tension of Opposites

Last year, the talented Kristina McBride released her debut novel, The Tension of Opposites. This novel quickly became one of my favorites, so I was beyond excited when a copy of her sophomore novel, One Moment, landed itself in my mailbox. I devoured this newest offering and now I’m passing it one lucky reader! 

In addition to the One Moment arc, the winner will also received a signed paperback copy of The Tension of Opposites, which I’m quoted in! 

Be sure to check out my reviews of these novels as well!

Interested!? Fill out the Rafflecopter from below to enter your name and win both of these amazing novels!

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Review: One Moment by Kristina McBride

This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget. 

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can’t she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead? 

As Maggie’s memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding? 

The latest novel from the author of The Tension of Opposites, One Moment is a mysterious, searing look at how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you.

Since the moment I finished Kristina McBride’s debut novel, The Tension of Opposites, I’ve been waiting for her to offer readers something new. When One Moment arrived unexpectedly at my doorstep, my wait was finally over. But now the moment of truth was upon me… would my high expectations be met?

Yes! Those expectation have been met and exceeded and I want to jump up and down and tell everyone how undeniably brilliant One Moment is. (Phew.) It has been a couple weeks since I finished reading McBride’s sophomore novel – and by “reading” I mean “inhaled in a matter of hours” – but it refuses to leave my head. I find myself thinking about it when my mind randomly connects things in real life with small, sometimes seemingly insignificant details from the story.

The other day, someone mentioned a quilt. In the novel, right after the accident in which Maggie’s boyfriend Joey ends up dead, Maggie huddles on her couch wrapped in a quilt her grandmother made. I was immediately transported back to Maggie’s world and found myself thinking about and revisiting parts of her story. I might just be a crazy person, but I like to think that it’s Kristina McBride’s ability to appeal to her readers’ emotions and pull them fully into her characters’ worlds that keeps bringing me back to One Moment time after time… no small feat!

While both of McBride’s novels are contemporary YA that feature rather dark, sad events and female protagonists, they’re a world apart. While I could clearly tell that One Moment was a “McBride” novel, it was unique and had it’s own power completely separate from that of The Tension of Opposites. Maggie is very different than McBride’s first protagonist, yet I still connected deeply with her, just as I did with Tessa.

There is so much more I could say about One Moment, but I fear becoming spoilery, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. If you’re already a fan of McBride, for goodness sake, preorder One Moment! For the rest of you, if you like a well written contemporary YA rife with emotion, mystery, drama, and romance, you simply must read this novel… and The Tension of Opposites while you’re waiting!

EgmontUSA, June 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9781606840863, 272 pages. 

Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Title: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pub. Date: 6.14.2011
Genre: Paranormal YA
Keywords: Time Travel, Romance, Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 397
Description (from Goodreads):

One hour to rewrite the past . . .
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

I fell in love with the cover of HOURGLASS the first time I saw it and thought there was a good chance I’d like the novel, but I was entirely unprepared for just how much I would love it.

Myra McEntire’s debut novel is absolutely fantastic. I haven’t read all the many time travel novels other than HOURGLASS, but, if other authors can do it half as well as McEntire, I feel I should make this a priority.

Time travel is such a crazy, whimsical idea and I’m pretty confident that most people have had time travel fantasies, so a novel in which a character, who has experienced great tragedy in her life, discovers that it isn’t impossible to jump back in time – and perhaps even change the past –  is a very, very good idea. The entire premise is incredibly seductive. 

One of the best things about this novel? The romance. Hands down. At times, the whole ‘we’re ridiculously drawn to one another but are forbidden to actually pursue out feelings’ thing can be annoying, but I really enjoyed it in HOURGLASS. I think it helped that Emerson and Michael weren’t kept apart just because Michael had some deep, dark secret, but also for normal, teenage reasons – like Emerson’s brother/guardian insisting she and Michael keep their relationship professional.

Plus, this novel is twisty. It has an epic air about it and just as soon as the reader gets comfortable, McEntire throws in a totally unexpected element. Readers won’t sit back and casually enjoy the ride with this one – this author keeps you on your toes.

Sometimes I feel like I need a break from paranormal YA, but then I pick up one like this and I remember just why this genre is so wonderful!

Cover of the Week (31)

Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Description (from Goodreads):
“Since the age of fourteen, Emerson Cole has seen strange things – dead things – swooning Southern Belles, soldiers, and other eerie apparitions of the past. She’s tried everything to get rid of the visions: medication, counseling, asylums. Nothing’s worked.

So when Emerson’s well-meaning brother calls in yet another consultant from a mysterious organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to give it one last try.

Michael Weaver is no ordinary consultant. He’s barely older than she is; he listens like no one she’s ever met before; and he doesn’t make her feel the least bit crazy. As Emerson ventures deeper into the world of the Hourglass, she begins to learn the truth about her past, her future–and her very life.

A seductive time-slip novel that merges the very best of the paranormal and science fiction genres, Myra McEntire’s Hourglass is a stunning debut from an author to watch.”

I saw this cover and immediately said “WOW.” And then “ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh.” And then “that’s so creepy.” I definitely need that book on my bookshelf, especially when the cover is coupled with the fantastic description!