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Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Author: Mia Kerrick

One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.
Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.
Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.
Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.
With a foreword by C. Kennedy
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“Miss Libby just said to read it and comment.”
“And your comment? I’m very much looking forward to hearing it.”
“I already told you. I don’t believe that this”—he placed his hand firmly on my journal—“is genuine.”
“Well, do you believe I found the note in the trashcan?”
He looked directly into my eyes and nodded.
“And that it said I hated you and myself and my sexuality?”
He nodded again, this time with more fervor.
“Do you believe that I know I was wrong?”
Another nod.
“Do you believe I know I’m gay?”
He shrugged and then nodded once more.
“Then what about this journal entry isn’t genuine, Scott?” I lifted my notebook from off the desk and waved it back at him. “What part do you not believe?”
“I don’t believe that you could possibly have forgotten what we feel, or rather, felt, for each other. I don’t want to believe that.”
Frankly, those words hurt like I’d gotten bitch-slapped, but I could tell by his expression that he had more to say, so I waited.
“And I don’t believe that you cannot remember what happened that Saturday night.” Scott rubbed his eyes with his thumbs and then he swallowed deeply. “It was the worst night of my life. I can’t believe it isn’t burned into your mind, as well.”
It was my turn to nod.
“But I do believe you are sorry. I’m just not sure that it matters anymore.” After rubbing his dry eyes one more time, he pulled his journal out of his backpack and handed it to me. “My entry is about how much I detest broccoli.”
Hello and thanks for inviting me over…
What would you like teen readers to take away from your novels?
My goal is for my novels to be difficult to put down once they have been started. I want teens to think, I can’t wait to pick up another Mia Kerick novel after they have finished, so my primary objective in writing is to create interesting stories that teens will actually want to read.
I write romances, so I want teen readers to recognize that love can be very powerful, even instrumental, to happiness, when it is respectful and honest and devoted. Mixed in with this message are sub-themes, I guess you could call them, that encourage teens to accept responsibility for their actions, to say that they are sorry, to forgive themselves and others, to embrace everybody’s differences, and to recognize that they have the power to take care of themselves and to help others.
But back to the beginning of my answer, if the book isn’t interesting, then teens won’t get to the part that they reflect upon their own lives because they’ll have put the book down on the coffee table, so writing a compelling book—one that makes teens want to think about its message—is goal number one.

Tell us about your cover design. Is there any symbolism from the story reflected in the cover?
I had looked at lots of pictures of models as I was creating covers for my previous books, so I had come across this model, MJ (who is older now and looks much different), in Dan Skinner’s work on Deviantart. Somehow, the challenging look in his eyes, and the physical characteristics of this model, stayed in my mind as I wrote The Red Sheet. So, in effect, I wrote this book about this model as my second main character, Scott Beckett.
When it came time to choose the cover, I had no doubt about what I wanted. And I wanted a photo of this model. However, in order to incorporate the symbolism, and the title, we had to change the color of the sheets that he was lying on. They couldn’t be white!! They had to be red!!
In my novel The Red Sheet, the red sheets symbolize the main character, Bryan Dennison’s, sudden inexplicable urge to be a better person and to do the right thing. Bryan actually refers to himself as  “a Superman of Intention” because he sees his strong desire to wear the red sheet, tied around his neck like a cape, as representative of how Superman wears a red cape when he is off to save the innocent and foil the bad guys. When Bryan needs to feel empowered to do the right thing, he envisions, or even actually wraps himself in, his new set of red sheets. And by these sheets, he is comforted and encouraged to continue on his path toward creating a better world.

What part of the story was the most fun to write? The most challenging?
The most fun part of The Red Sheet to write was definitely the flash mob scene where all of Bryan’s new, less-than-popular friends dance to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” in the lunchroom, in front of the entire junior class, to celebrate a much-loved teacher’s thirtieth birthday. I laughed as I wrote I, especially when I was describing 6’4” hairy-legged Bryan doing Rockette-style high kicks.
I will say, though, the flash mob scene was also the most difficult to write because it involved research. I have a seventeen-year-old daughter who is a dancer living in New York, so first thing I did was call her. She told me about me some basic dance moves that might be used in a flash mob and she referred me to Youtube videos where I could check these moves out so I could describe them accurately. I researched the most commonly danced to songs (for the purpose of a flash mob) and I selected ABBA’s Dancing Queen. I then viewed as many different flash mob videos as I could find to get the full spirit of a flash mob event. I googled “how to set up a flash mobs” and I found a rather serious set of “rules”.
Now, this was fun and interesting research, but it was also a bit intimidating as I had never described this type of a scene in writing and I wanted it to be funny and true-to-life, and I wanted it to really bring to the reader the feeling that was in the room.

If you could travel back in time and tell the teenage you one thing, what would it be?
I think my big message could be encapsulated into one word: relax. You see, I am a worrier, and I have been as long as can remember. I worried about school quizzes and my driver’s test. I worried about whether I would make the cheerleading squad and if I would get a part in the school play. I asked myself “what if this happens?” and “what if that doesn’t happen?” It would have benefited me to have just taken a deep breath and tried to relax, because worrying really doesn’t change things.
More than relaxing about the things that could happen to me, though, I would tell myself to relax when I worried about what everybody else thought of me. “Will they say my outfit doesn’t match?” “Does he think I’m pretty?” “Does she think I’m cool?” “Was that a totally stupid thing to say?” “If I say no, will they hate me forever?” I would go back and tell myself, again, to take a deep breath, and just do what my gut told me was right, regardless of what anyone else though or said.

Which of your characters is most like you?
A few come to mind, but the one who most resembles me in personality would be from my first book, Beggars and Choosers. Beggars and Choosers is technically an adult novel, but it falls into the category really of a “New Adult” or a “coming-of-age” novel where one of the two characters, Cory Butana, is 15-19 during the entire book. Cory is very much like me, in fact, this story had been in my mind since I was about thirteen, and in my mind, Cory was me.
The main characteristic I share with Cory is my deep desire to please other people. Cory tries to please his father, his bosses, his best friend, Maura, and his love interest, Brett. He is a bit of a target at school, but not a total victim. He is honest and thoughtful and has trouble saying no even when he needs to. Cory can be pushed very far before he gets angry; but when he finally draws a line, he means it.

Is there anything from your own teen years that has been placed into your books?
As a teen, music was very important to me. (It still is!) I incorporate music into every story that I write as I know it would be important in the lives of my characters. Intervention is about a musical boy who uses popular songs and lyrics to communicate with a boy who refuses to pay attention to him when he speaks. The intervention in question is a musical one. Not Broken, Just Bent was named after and inspired by the Pink/Nate Ruess song “Just Give me A Reason”. It refers to two boys’ long term relationship that endures hard times, but ultimately is not broken, just bent out of shape. The Red Sheet was inspired by Five For Fighting’s “Superman”, which is quoted throughout the novel. It deals with the fragile humanity of Superman as he takes on the evil of the world.

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.
Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
My themes I always write about:
Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them.

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