My guest today is the talented author Stacy Juba. You might know Stacy from her two mystery novels, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim. Recently Stacy released two equally entertaining young adult novels – Face-Off and Dark Before Dawn. While these two books are in the young adult genre, they easily cross over and can be enjoyed by adults of any age. Here’s a look:
Head-to-Head, Skate-to-Skate, It’s Winner Takes All! What might have been a dream come true has turned into a nightmare. Brad’s twin brother T.J. has gotten himself out of the fancy prep school his father picked for him and into the public high school Brad attends. Now T.J., the bright light in his father’s eyes, is a shining new star on the hockey team where Brad once held the spotlight. And he’s testing his popularity with Brad’s friends, eyeing Brad’s girl and competing to be captain of the team. The whole school is rooting for a big double-strength win…not knowing that their twin hockey stars are heating up the ice for a winner takes all face-off.
When teen psychic Dawn Christian gets involved with a fortuneteller mentor and two girls who share her mysterious talents, she finally belongs after years of being a misfit. When she learns her new friends may be tied to freak “accidents” in town, Dawn has an important choice to make – continue developing the talent that makes her special or challenge the only people who have ever accepted her.
Stacy is here to answer my questions but first, for those of you who have yet to meet her, here’s a brief introduction:
Thousands of readers have been captivated by the books of Stacy Juba. Stacy published her first book, a young adult novel, at age 18 and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her recent mystery novels for adults include Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim. She is also the author of the patriotic children’s picture book The Flag Keeper, which teaches children about U.S. flag etiquette, the children’s picture book Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise, the paranormal young adult thriller Dark Before Dawn, and the young adult family hockey novel Face-Off.
Learn more about Stacy and her writing on her website: www.StacyJuba.com/blog
Now to get Stacy to spill all her secrets:
You wrote the first draft of Face-Off when you were still in high school. What inspired you to write a book at such a young age?
I wrote my first story in third grade, and by fifth grade, I was writing my own mystery series. I was very introverted growing up, and writing was a way for me to express myself. My elementary school teachers really encouraged the talent. I was inspired to write a full-length book after reading about a novel-writing competition for teenagers in Tiger Beat magazine. The magazine had a short article on the most recent winner and indicated that the contest was held every two years. I decided to try my hand at writing a book to enter in the next competition. I had recently gotten interested in ice hockey and started getting the glimmer of an idea. Face-Off wound up winning the competition and was published in 1992. Since the book was long out of print, I released a new paperback and e-book versions this fall.
Face-Off is about four brothers who all play hockey. I was struck by how well you handled the point of view of your male characters. What gave you such good insight into the minds of teenage boys and how brothers interact?
Honestly, I don’t know! I didn’t grow up with brothers, and I was very shy, so I certainly didn’t date any teenage boys! My friend down the street had three brothers and she read the book and offered feedback while I was writing it. I watched lots of TV shows like The Brady Bunch and movies about siblings. I just used my imagination and observed boys at school to see how they acted. I wanted the two main characters, twins Brad and T.J., to be cool jocks on the outside, but with a lot more depth on the inside. It was a lot of fun writing about the McKendrick family. One of the themes in the book is jealousy – T.J. and Brad envy one another and have a competitive relationship. I was pretty competitive in school as far as wanting to get good grades and be at the top of my class, so I imagined what it would be like to be competitive with a sibling in the same grade, who plays the same sports, and who has the same friends.
I have to ask about the hockey thing. I’ve been a huge Boston Bruins fan since about the age of twelve, even though no one else in my family has ever watched the sport. I could tell by your writing that you know the sport well. What drew you to hockey back then and do you still watch?
I got into hockey during the 1988 Olympics, watching guys like Brian Leetch and Craig Janney. That was back before pro hockey players filled the U.S. roster and I just found the whole thing exciting. After the Olympics ended, I went into withdrawal, but luckily a lot of those players went pro. I started following the Boston Bruins, and keeping up with those former Olympians in the NHL. The Bruins were stellar at that time and went head-to-head with the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup finals. I got swept away by Bruins fever. I was a diehard hockey fan for several years, but stopped following it as avidly in my twenties due to time constraints. I got back into it again last spring, with the Bruins’ outstanding playoff victory!
You left Face-Off with an opening for a sequel. Had you written a second book and/or do you have a sequel planned?
I wrote a sequel called Offsides when I was about 20 years old, but the original publisher had a lot of turnover in personnel and they weren’t interested in it, so there wasn’t much I could do with it. My fifth grade teacher read the sequel to his class, and the kids loved it even more than Face-Off, so I knew the book was good. It’s been in my drawer for years and years, and I’m currently giving it a rewrite. I need to do some research into college hockey scholarships as that issue is a lot more complex than it used to be, so the book needs some work, but I hope to release it in the next year or two.
Dark Before Dawn is another book you wrote at a young age. This story focuses on a teenage girl with psychic powers. Do you remember what first inspired you to write this one?
I started the original draft in my early twenties, at the suggestion of an editor from Random House who had read another paranormal YA book that I’d written. She thought my style was similar to bestselling YA author Lois Duncan and advised me to write another paranormal YA. The editor soon left publishing, but not before telling me that my early draft of Dark Before Dawn (then titled Deadly Thoughts) had potential. Over the years, editors at four different publishing houses brought the book before their publishing committees, and the manuscript went through many changes, but the timing was never right for publication until now. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but in hindsight, I think this book is being published at just the right time.
From the details about crystals and various techniques, I could tell that you either had a passion for the topic or had done a lot of research – or both! So I have to ask. Do you have any psychic abilities of your own? If not, would you want them?
I definitely don’t have psychic abilities, but I’m very interested in metaphysical topics. I’m trained in Reiki, a form of hands-on energy healing, and am a Reiki Master. I use angel cards to get insight into different situations and have had uncanny results, though it’s only something I do for myself, not for other people. I’ve shown a couple of friends how they can do readings for themselves. I think anyone can be trained to develop their intuition – not to become psychic, but to become more intuitive. I went through a crystal phase, where I bought all kinds of crystals like rose quartz and amethyst and put them in different spots throughout the house, but never noticed anything “unusual” about the crystals like in the book. I think developing your intuition is a definite asset in life. Doing so has given me the confidence to make quicker and more assertive decisions. For the past couple of years, I’ve been building my whole writing and publishing career based on my gut feelings and running with writing and promotion ideas that felt right. I don’t think I’d want to be psychic, though, and to have premonitions like Dawn unless there was a way I could change negative outcomes. I’ve been told by a few people who earn their livings as psychics or intuitive counselors that I’m very intuitive and could develop these skills even more if I took classes and went down that path, but like Dawn’s mother in the book, my comfort level only goes so far!
I could relate to Dawn in many ways. While I am many years out of high school, the difficulties remain strong memories. You’ve mentioned gym class being an issue for you, as it was for me and, I’m sure, countless other teens. Was writing this book in part a kind of catharsis for you in releasing those lingering feelings?
I had a lot of buried resentments about being picked last in gym class from elementary school through high school. I hated gym class, hated it with a passion. I resented teachers who assigned captains to pick teams and who didn’t bat an eye when the same kids were always picked last day after day. My mother and I even sent a Dear Abby clipping about this very subject, the unfairness of picking teams, to my gym teacher and nothing changed. I resented kids who made fun of me or got angry with me for hitting the volleyball into the net or striking out. Ironically, I majored in exercise science in college and had to take physical education classes. Although I am a big believer in the importance of exercise, that wasn’t the right path for me – I think it was more an act of defiance to prove to myself that even though I wasn’t a good athlete, I was just as physically strong as the other kids were. Writing those scenes in Dark Before Dawn was a bit of catharsis for me. I guess in hindsight, all that gym class misery was something I had to go through to find the drive and stubbornness to make it in the tough business of publishing. For years, I cried on the school bus or in the locker room after gym class, but there came a point where I said I don’t care what they think anymore and developed a strong backbone against the criticism. The ultimate irony is that the non-athletic girl who was always picked last wrote a book about hockey that was even on the recommended reading list of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Junior Education Program! And maybe that’s why I wrote Face-Off as a teenager, to show that even though I wasn’t good at playing sports, I could write about a sport.
I was right there with you in that gym class misery!
The ending of Dark Before Dawn brought us closure but also left an intriguing opening for a sequel. Do you have one planned?
I don’t have one planned at this time as I’m working on other books, but I did deliberately leave the door open in case Dark Before Dawn takes off – which I think it will!
Both of these titles are in the YA genre. (Though they easily appeal to adults of all ages.) You’ve also written two excellent adult mysteries, as well as two adorable children’s stories. Do you enjoy writing within one genre more than the others?
I started both of my young adult books when I was basically a young adult myself, so those were easier for me to write at the time. Now, adult novels are easier for me to write as I relate more to adult characters. However, I vividly recall what it was like to be a teenager, so drawing upon those experiences does help me to write YA, and I’ll watch young adult TV shows to get a feel for what today’s teenagers are interested in and their slang.
I know that you are working on another adult novel, though this new one is different from your two previous mysteries. Can you tell us a little about that?
In all of my novels except Face-Off, there is a dead body. This is my first adult book without any mystery or suspense aspect to it. It’s a blend of contemporary fiction, sweet romance, and romantic comedy and it draws upon the Cinderella tale in a very original way. I’m four chapters into the book and hope to finish it next year.
I can’t wait to read it!
You can find all of Stacy’s books on Amazon:
I hope you’ll take the time to read some of Stacy’s books. You’ll be hooked from the start!
Stacy and I would love to hear from you. Please share your comments and questions here.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: author interviews, Books For Hockey Fans, Boston Bruins, Dark Before Dawn, Face-Off, indie authors, Indie Authors on Kindle, Kindle Books Under $3, Kindle books under $5, New Young Adult Novels, Novels About Hockey, Novels About Psychics, psychic abilities, Stacy Juba, YA Fiction, YA Novels