Saturday, August 25, 2012

Interview♥Giveaway: Rachel Harris, Author of My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century

On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze. Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

Release: Sept. 11, 2012 | Publisher: Entangled Publishing | Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Today I am so honour to have Rachel Harris, the author of My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, here on FireStarBooks for an interview.
    1. Who is your favourite author and is you writing style similar to theirs? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

    I have so many favorite authors, seriously it is impossible to pick. But I do have a few tried and true authors that are on my must-buy list. Like, anything they write, I will pre-order or buy on release day, even if I can’t read it for a while.
    A few of these are Gayle Forman, Lauren Barnholdt, Jennifer Echols, Tammara Webber, and Stephanie Perkins. I would love to hear people say my writing is similar to theirs!! Actually, not too long ago a pretty cool chick in the industry compared me to Lauren Barnholdt, and I have to say, that made my entire week.

    As for what strikes me about their work, all of them have a way of just grabbing me. I am a character girl—that is always what brings me to a story and keeps me there. A cool plot is awesome, and yeah action is fun, but I’m drawn to rich characters and all five of these ladies are masters at that. Gayle is a wizard with imagery and emotion, Jennifer rocks emotion and romance. Tammara kills me with her spot on dialogue and depth, Lauren nails the dual character POV and always makes me smile, and Stephanie’s writing is so vivid—whether it is her characters or her rich settings, the images jump from the page.

    1. What's your favorite part of a book?

    When I’m the one writing it, my favorite part is the beginning. I love a fresh new start and getting pulled into the story. And probably it’s the same when I’m reading, too. Those first few pages set the stage for what’s ahead and if it sucks me in quick, I know I’m in for some fun.

    1. When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?

    I am very crazy about character names LOL. Sometimes it is what the name means, other times it is trying out certain names and staring at inspiration pictures and seeing if it “feels” right. But the biggest example of my craziness with names came with My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century and the companion novel, A Tale of Two Centuries. It was so important to me to use names, both first names and last names, which were in use in Florence during the 16th century. I searched records and came up with lists and then double-checked other sources to make sure I had it right and also wasn’t recreating someone famous without knowing it lol. What made it difficult is that so many names arekinda similar….or at least the ones that really stood out to meso I had to keep going back to make sure the names weren’t too much alike to confuse the readers. Along the way, I had people suggest names to me and I’d just smile and say, sorry, that name isn’t in the records. I think they thought I was nuts.

    1. How do you get started with writing a story (as in, how do you start developing the story, how do you get inspired for it)?

    Normally I start with some small kernel idea, and I get that from all kinds of crazy places. Once I have the idea, I go straight to my characters—who will tell this story the best—and sometimes I even get the character first and figure out what their story is. Like I said, I’m a total character girl. Most of my time is spent planning the characters out, getting images that match the ones in my mind, interviewing them, creating their character arcs and making up a soundtrack that fits the arc. Once I have that, I delve deeper into the plotting, always keeping that arc in mind and trying to make it deeper and richer. And only after I’ve completely plotted out the book, gotten my soundtrack together, and compiled all my images into a storyboard for inspiration can I write “Chapter One.”

    1. How long did it take you to publish your first book, after you started trying?

    Well my first book is out on submission now (fingers crossed). I decided I wanted to try writing a book and started plotting it between July and August 2010. Drafting began toward the beginning of September and was in the query stage by Thanksgiving. The idea for My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century came in January 2011 and was in the query stage by April. I signed my contract with my agent at the end of August or early September, and had a deal with Entangled Teen about a month later. I got very lucky with this book and things moved fast.

    1. How did you come up with the title?

    remember coming to talk to my husband last January….he was on the treadmill and I totally interrupted him to talk about this new shiny idea I got. I knew I wanted it to be a historical, and I wanted it to be a time travel, but I had to decide on the era. We tossed a few around, but quickly settled on the Renaissance because I’ve always loved it. I think we’d just seen a commercial on MTV for My Super Sweet Sixteen because he said, “How about My Super Sweet Sixteen-Hundreds,” and I scrunched my nose and said, “How about My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century.” We decided mine was better (ha!), and then we hammered out the main parts of the plot that afternoon, deciding what kind of character would be best for this kind of setting. It was a lot of fun =)

    1. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

    I do have a few messages in the novel itself, but they come across toward the end as important things Cat learned on her journey, and I don’t want to spoil them here. I will say that a universal theme in pretty much everything I write—whether it is a sweet and funny book, or a deeper, more emotional story—is the idea of masks. I think at some point in our lives, almost all of us wear them, whether we intend to or not, and I love exploring that concept. Sometimes we are trying on a new identity, or attempting to shed one. Sometimes it is literally putting on a mask and becoming someone else for a time.

    For Cat, she wore the mask of perfection—needing to always be perfect and in control of the situation, based on her upbringing, and she also literally put on the new identity of Patience D’Angeli while in the past, trying to reconcile who that is with her own personality.

    So this story is about a girl who has major trust issues because of her upbringing, who thinks she has to project a perfect image all the time, being sent to a time where she is unable to do so. She’s forced to reply on and trust other people, in particular a maternal figure who likes like her estranged mother and acts like her polar-opposite soon-to-be stepmother. This time travel adventure she goes on, while fun and chaotic and fantastical, also helps her deal with the masks she wears and is the perfect backdrop for her internal growth =)

    1. What are your current projects? Can you share a little of your current work with us?

    I just turned in A Tale of Two Centuries, the companion novel to My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, which comes out next June. I’m now heavily drafting Rearview Mirror, which will hit stands December 2013. This one is new and different for me, a YA Mystery/Thriller with Paranormal elements that is set in my hometown of New Orleans. It is a dual character POV with both a boy and girl protagonist, and the romance is a bit deeper, too. I’m really excited about it!

    1. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

    My Family rocks. All of them. On top of my amazingly supportive husband and children and parents and mother-in-law, I wouldn’t be giving this interview if it weren’t for my critique partners. For My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, Trisha Wolfe, Shannon Duffy, and Victoria Scott were unbelievable—they gave me notes, read each draft a bazillion times, pushed me, challenged me, cheered me, and inspired me. They are amazing. And once I signed with Entangled Teen, I got a whole new family, too….Entangled really is like a family, with a very active author loop and more support and encouragement then you can ever imagine.
    I’m a blessed author.

    1. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

    Endings KILL me! And what’s crazy is they are completely plotted outI know what is going to happen. But when I start to get close to the ending, it’s like a part of me doesn’t want to let it go, so my creativity dries up and writing is like torture. I just have to keep pushing through and it gets easier, but yeah, ending chapters take at least twice as long for me to write as beginnings.

    I also get really emotional when I write like breakup scenes or dark moments. I always suffer from severe sympathy pains in anything I’m doing—reading, watching TV, or writing—so these sceneskinda make me sad and depressed and craving chocolate for a while lol.

    1. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

    I grow as a writer with each book I complete. Something about the process of going through a whole novel and then opening a fresh, clean document brings me to a different level. More tricks and techniques I’ve learned about suddenly click and my style changes ever so slightly. I grew a lot from my first book to My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century. On top of that, of course I learned so much about the Renaissance time, all goodies and tidbits I sprinkled through the pages of the novel. And, as totally cheesy as this is to sayand yes, I know it is, but it’s true, too!...I learned that dreams do come true. I wanted to be an author, I went for it, and it’s actually happening. I love that my girls are seeing that, that they were old enough and home with me since I homeschool them so that they could see the entire process and get that little inspiration to go for their own dreams. That alone is worth every rejection or harsh criticism I’ll ever have.

As a teen, Rachel Harris threw raging parties that shook her parents’ walls and created embarrassing fodder for future YA novels.

As an adult, she reads and writes obsessively, rehashes said embarrassing fodder, and dreams up characters who become her own grown up version of imaginary friends.

When she's not typing furiously or flipping pages in an enthralling romance, you can find her homeschooling her two beautiful princesses, hanging out with her amazing husband, or taking a hot bubble bathnext to a pile of chocolate.

MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY is her debut novel. She did have her own fantabulous Sweet Sixteen in high school. Sadly, it wasn't televised.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Love how they came up with the name for the book ..too cute!

  2. Wow, these were some awesome questions. I love Gayle Forman tooo! I think shes amazing. Very interesting interview I didnt know she had a third book coming out after this one and a tale of two centuries. Thats great!

  3. nice interview... :)
    My favorite part of the book is also the starting it sets the mood for my further reading... :)

  4. Lovely interview!

    Thanks for participating.

  5. Great interview!
    Those are my favorite authors too. :D

  6. Awesome interview! I love how she got the idea for the title :)

  7. great in interview..and i love the cover,,very beautiful..
    cant wait to reading..

  8. Hmm... Ms. Harris really likes interviews... And your a great interviewer... Thank you for this!!! Endings... I hate them... Thank you!!!

  9. Stephanie Perkins is awesome! Ah, all three books you're working on [including mSSSC] sound so AMAZING!<3

    Lovely questions and answers. Big thanks for the giveaway, too.(:

  10. Been wanting to read this book ever since I first heard about it.


Total Pageviews