Friday, February 13, 2015

♥ kissing frogs: review, q&a, and a giveaway!

last year at a good friend's bachelorette, i had the pleasure of meeting stephanie blackburn-
a fellow cat lover/vegetarian/ blogger who also happens to be a published author!

a few months ago, i was lucky enough to receive a copy of stephanie's third young adult
book, kissing frogs,which henry finally allowed me time to finish this past week.

set in boston, this book is about a girl named elliott roux and her unique relationships
 with her family (particularly her wise and sophisticated grandmother, who she
affectionately calls, gram), her feisty kitten, stanley, her totally relatable group of besties
 and the crazy cast of men that they try to date.

having skipped over the dating scene in real life, and settling easily into my thirties as a mama,
this book allowed me to peer into the life of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, living
it up in the city and learning how to deal with the many challenges that life threw her way.
it was not only a fun read, but one that i thoroughly enjoyed going back to every
free moment that i could find!

i had the chance to ask stephanie a few questions about her book
and here is what she had to say:

A Glimpse of Glamour: Your book includes a pack of girlfriends who are very much like a group of gals I could be friends with if I were a few years younger. How are you able to write about characters in a way that is so accessible and believable? Were these characters bouncing around in your head for a while before you put pen to paper?  

Stephanie Blackburn:I had been thinking about these characters for six years before I started writing Kissing Frogs. I thought about the girlfriends, their storylines, how their friendships came to be and how they would evolve, the people they'd date, etc. and I planned out the three books (it's a trilogy). Then I started writing a chapter for the second book and then one for the third book and I realized that groups of friends don't stay the same throughout your twenties and thirties. Relationships evolve, people move away, get new jobs, date different people, and I needed to be realistic about that in the books. I tried to focus on portraying real girlfriend relationships and how we speak to each other - the things we discuss and how open we are with each other.

AGOG: Having married my high school sweetheart, I skipped the dating scene altogether. Are the crazy stories and wild circumstances that your characters find themselves in at times a true depiction of some things you have encountered as a single lady?

SB: On the one hand, I think you are a very lucky lady to have found the love of your life at such a young age! On the other hand, you missed out on some crazy life experiences by not dipping a toe in the Boston dating scene (in retrospect, not necessarily something to be sad about). Dating can be a really crazy thing - putting yourself out there and not always meeting the most amazing people. But in my mind, you have to try and look back on each date with a hint of humor. And whether I admit to the guys in Kissing Frogs existing in real life or not, I have no doubt that there are lots of guys like them out there, who do weird things like taser themselves for fun, would rather cuddle their cat than you, or suggest getting a dog together on your third time hanging out. I have a funny feeling that if you ask around you'll be surprised at how many people have horrible (hopefully in hindsight they've ripened to being funny) dating stories.

AGOG: Gram was a very real character for me, one who came to life almost instantly through the strength of her convictions and her cheeky sensibility  Did you have real life inspiration for her? Have you really lost someone as close to you as Gram was to Elliot?

SB: Gram was the sole reason I didn't want to be done with this book. I finished the first draft and felt this ache inside me and went back and wrote three more scenes with her. Just because. I didn't base her on either of my grandmothers, though looking back, maybe without realizing it I took their best qualities and molded them into Gram. I just knew I wanted readers to fall in love with this woman and wish she was their Gram, too.
From Elliott's point of view, her mother isn't an intrinsic part of her everyday life. Instead, Elliott's world focuses on girlfriends and Gram. So because her mother isn't a major player, I knew I wanted Gram to be that rock that Elliott could always tether herself to - her moral compass. And with all the wild nights out with girlfriends and dating questionable men, I knew there needed to be this safe haven that Elliott could escape to, where there'd always be a cup of tea and freshly baked goodies waiting and honest advice from someone who has lived and loved. 

AGOG: The same goes for Stanley the cat! I hope he's based on a real cat just because he sounds adorable.

SB: Oh Stanley. Stanley is based on my cat Bug, probably the judgiest cat you'll ever meet. She was the sweetest baby but now she is the queen of stinkeye. And I love it. The funny thing is, I always fancied myself a dog person. I grew up with a menagerie of animals but gravitated towards our dog the most. I moved into my first apartment post-college and our landlord would not allow dogs but he would allow one cat. So I went on Petfinder, found Bug, and adopted her. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Elliott's first night with Stanley is pretty much how my first night with Bug went. It was an emotional and poopy mess that ended with me convinced that I was going to ruin both our lives. Nine years later, adopting Bug was probably the best decision I've ever made.

AGOG: Your inclusion of Boston as the backdrop of your book had a seamless quality that did not feel forced or touristy. How did you make sure to highlight some of the city's best features without going too overboard? And does the Four Seasons really pack special lunches like that?

SB: I could easily have gone overboard and basically made a list of all the places I think people should visit when they come to Boston, but as I was writing I remembered back to my early twenties and a lot of times we were struggling financially and ended up just hanging out in someone's apartment and ordering food in. But we never skimped on going out to bars and drinking. Priorities, right? So I tried to just point out certain neighborhoods - brunch in Inman Square, drinks in Downtown Crossing. There are so many fantastic places around the city and I hoped that Bostonians reading Kissing Frogs would think about their favorite haunts around the city.
As for the picnic lunch, I swear I watched a show years ago about a hotel that did offer picnic lunches to go, but maybe I just imagined it. In any case, the Four Seasons should offer that. Wouldn't that be the perfect way to spend a gorgeous weekend afternoon in the Public Garden?

AGOG: What was your inspiration behind the cover art for Kissing Frogs?

SB: I was actually picturing something different for the cover design and then the artist sent me four options and that design ultimately drew my eye and stuck. Boston's skyline, the frog tongue, the bright colors - it just popped. And ultimately, it's the type of cover that someone will notice and decide to pick up.

now for the giveaway!!!

for your chance to receive your very own copy of kissing frogs & a tote bag to go along with it,
 be sure to leave me a comment with your craziest dating story and your email address
so i can contact you! a winner will be chosen next friday.
good luck!

4 ♥ love notes.:

  1. So let me set the scene: It was a humid, Boston summer day. My flavor of the week called to say he was at the door. Upon greeting him I said "OH! You're in a suit?!" I'm sure your kind hearted soul is thinking "Oh he came from work." Nope. A wool, full on business suit just because. (Let me clarify that it was in the 90's and like 1000% humidity) After a few minutes of awkward exchanges of ideas of things we could do we decided on outdoor drinks. During which time in my head I was not fully focussed as all I could think was "ummmm, you're in a suit!" I have a funny feeling that although I did not say that out loud my "heart on my face" self told it with looks. The drinks were cold as ice due to the tension and he wasn't pleasant company.

    Moral of the story: People who live in glass houses shouldn't wear suits.


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