The Lip Gloss Chronicles

July 28, 2009

First, let me say, as a teen I would have totally picked up a book called The Lip Gloss Chronicles. Because for reasons unknown to mankind, some girls are mesmerized by lip gloss. I was am one of them.

My five-year-old has a terrible addiction to it, already. Whether it’s in the chapstick tube form or (more commonly) in some type of pretty, heart shaped or Hello Kitty-shaped container – she wants it!

So, in my opinion, author Shelia Goss had the right idea when she named her teen lit series after the much sought after fashion product.

But, readers beware – YA named after gooey, shiny lip condiments is no less packed with depth than some YA with pouty, models on the cover. There’s depth in them there pages.

Goss grounds the LGC in real-world issues for readers craving substance with their multi-culti pop lit.

The Lip Gloss Chronicles follows three friends, Britney, Jasmine and Sierra as they make the transition from an elite private school to public school.

The girls are Texas socialites ready to be fed into the dog eat dog world of average joe students. The drama includes the three friends being attracted to the same guy, coping with divorcing parents and weight issues.

A national best selling author for her adult fiction, Goss is no stranger to the lit world. I caught up with her to talk about life on the teen side of the field.

Comment by 9 p.m. Eastern July 29th and you’re eligible for a drawing to receive a copy of Lip Gloss Chronicles vol 1. The Ultimate Test. So, give Shelia a big Brown Bookshelf welcome and comment away!

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BBS: Talk a bit about how it feels to
be the new kid on the block in the YA genre. Was it scary to enter a
new genre or does your prior success lend you a bit more confidence?

SG: I’m excited to be writing in the YA genre. I have to admit that it was scary at first. My biggest challenge has been figuring out how to get the word out to teens so they’ll know that my books are out there.

BBS: How has writing the Lip Gloss Chronicles been different from
writing adult fiction, for you?

SG: The major difference was making sure the storylines were based on the reality of today’s teenagers and not write about adult themes. I had to speak with teenagers and learn their lingo.

BBS: How has it been the same?

SG: I try my best to not just entertain, but have a message in each one of my books whether it’s women’s fiction or young adult.

BBS: In the LGC, the three main characters are coming from an elite
private school to public school – what made you choose that particular
challenge for them?

SG: I’ve read some teen books where the characters have gone from public school to a private school. I wanted to show what would happen if the opposite occurred.
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BBS: And why three characters versus one trying to maneuver the same obstacle?

SG: Britney, Jasmine and Sierra each have unique personalities and handle situations differently. I also wanted to show the bond between friends that can last a lifetime.

BBS: Your characters are very much suburbanite divas i.e. like many
other young girls (African American or otherwise) in today’s suburbs.
I find them very relatable. How have readers reacted so far?

SG: I’ve received positive feedback from readers (adults and teens). Most of my friends live in the suburbs so the world I created for Britney, Jasmine and Sierra is not just fiction. Their fiction world is a reality for many teens that I know.

BBS: What’s the buzz on your books from them?

SG: Parents are telling me that some of their kids who don’t usually read much are now asking for book two in the series. That’s a good sign.

BBS: The girls are steeped in pop culture. What research do you conduct
to stay grounded in pop culture that appeals to the teen reader?

SG: I freelance as an entertainment writer so that has helped me; but my best research has come from talking with my pre-teen and teenage cousins.

BBS: Vol 3: Paper Thin hints of targeting the issue of anorexia/body
image. This isn’t an issue I’ve seen tackled, often, in books about
African American teens. When body image has been covered, it’s
typically been from the angle of “I’m bootylicious and love it.” It
sounds like Paper Thin will cover it from the angle of a teen going
too far to lose weight?

SG: Sierra’s weight issue is both internal and external. She hears remarks from her best friend Jasmine as well as her own internal voice telling her she needs to lose weight. Although in Paper Thin, Sierra has lost twenty-five pounds, she still feels like its not enough and ends up taking diet pills that lead to some health problems.
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BBS: Why this issue/angle?

SG: I decided to tackle this issue because many teenage girls are struggling trying to look like unrealistic images they see in various forms of the media. The theme for Paper Thin is that it’s okay to be healthy at a normal size. It’s not meant for every girl to be a size zero. I also wanted to show the dangers of taking drastic measures to lose weight.

BBS: YA series like LGC are still a part of a very small club (series
spotlighting the lives of African American suburban teens). What do
you think it will take to see more books like them out there?

SG: Exposure. Although I’m aware of the AA YA books out there, many of the people I talk to are not. I have compiled a list of AA YA authors and give the list out to those people I come across. I’m still new to the genre, but I think more media exposure and building relationships with librarians will help.

BBS: How many books planned in the series?

SG: There are currently three books in the series: The Ultimate Test (May 2009), Splitsville (September 2009), and Paper Thin (Spring 2010). I would like to see this series follow the girls until high school graduation. That all depends on how the sales are for the first three books in the series.

BBS: Do you have plans for other YA outside of the series?

SG: Yes and I’m real excited about it. I’m still working on a proposal for it, so I can’t go into any details right now. I hope the readers will embrace it just like they have The Lip Gloss Chronicles.

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This interview was conducted by Paula Chase-Hyman, author of the Del Rio Bay series, who still can’t bypass prettily packaged lip gloss!


Why Covers Won’t Matter

July 27, 2009

John Green (who is my author crush, except don’t tell Scott Westerfeld!) has broken down all of this cover madness, for us, in his brutally honest and Nerdfighter way.

He says:

Designers will be liberated to design the coolest jackets without so many commercial constraints, because the focus will be on the right audience instead of the broad audience. Word-of-mouth will be king again.

I’m raising a glass to that!!


Be Counted

July 24, 2009

Over at my blog, I’m calling readers of my series to take action and be counted. I’m asking them to write to my publisher with a very simple: I read this book. I like it. I am here! sort of message.

This, as a result of the LIAR cover and ensuing discussion about “black books” not selling.

Chasing Ray is worth checking out for further discussion as well. Believe me, there’s a lot being said on this.

Those who know me, know I’m a doer.

When I kept hearing “I can’t find good brown books for my reader,” I got to yakking with Varian and the Brown Bookshelf was born.

Now, this…

Librarians, teachers, parents, gatekeepers to young readers and readers, do not be ignored.

Fact is, brown books sell. What may be debatable is how well they sell.

But books don’t sell themselves. There’s a matter of distribution and placement that plays a large part in how well a book sells.

You can’t buy a book you don’t see on the shelf. And it’s awfully hard to buy a book you’re not even aware is available.

Book blogs like this one, are there to help with the latter. But the former is a whole lot trickier.

So, I’m asking readers to take it to the pen. Write a short, sweet letter to the publisher of your favorite brown authors to let them know you’re there and want to be acknowledged.

This isn’t about best selling. It’s about not wanting to lose ground.

If publishing believes brown books don’t sell they’ll have good reason not to buy these books.

We can’t let that happen.

It’ll take work to find the pubs address. But anything worth fighting for does. And I believe this is. I hope others will as well.


Thank you, sir. May we have another?

July 23, 2009

I was so pleased to hear about a new book blog in town. Which may seem weird, because there’s truly no shortage of book blogs. Unless you’re looking for one from the perspective of a Black teen.

And I’ll glaldy be proven wrong, here. If you know of book blog sites helmed by an African American young adult, by all means, send it up, send it through as D’Angelo once crooned.

Until then, welcome young, black, a reader to the kiddie lit blogosphere. [insert claps]

Run by Miss Attitude, a CORA reader, I have high expectations for this blog. Sorry, Miss Attitude, no pressure. It’s just exciting to be at the start of a blog dedicated to books, especially one from a perspective that’s sorely lacking in the literary chorus, and badly needed to remind publishers that teens of color (dare we call them a niche audience!) enjoy reading as much as mainstream readers.

Please stop by and show Miss Attitude some love. Most importantly, send your young readers her way, so they can get a perspective on books from someone beyond us gatekeepers.


Who’s The LIAR?

July 21, 2009

Yup, gonna throw my .02 in the ring on Justine Larbalestier’s LIAR cover. And if Justine got even a quarter of the .02 cents accumulating, she wouldn’t have to write anymore.

There’s quite a buzz about this book, but especially its cover.

In case you didn’t know (and if you’re bookish, you already do), Justine Larbalestier’s fall novel, LIAR, is about teen girl who happens to be a compulsive liar. Although the character is a self-admitted liar, I doubt her description of herself, black with hair so short and nappy she’s been mistaken for a boy, is false.

So the question around (book) town is why does the cover depict someone who is so clearly not nappy headed or of color?

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Karen Strong pondered if it wasn’t perhaps a clever twist on the protag being a liar. That she’s so much so that even her description of herself are in doubt.

I wish it were that abstract and crafty, but I can’t convince my gut that’s so.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no idea why the character on the cover is nothing like it’s described within…but I don’t think that’s it.

Is this yet another step backward in the war to provide more diverse books for readers of all colors? Would a nappy headed character depicted on the cover be death to sales? Would it have only drawn the curiosity of readers of color? And if so, is that equivalent to death to sales as opposed to the coveted mainstream love?

Editorial Anonymous thinks we should speak with our dollars. Maybe not in the way you’re thinking, either.

EDITED TO ADD: Justine speaks out about the cover.


Show Your Love

July 18, 2009

Personally, I don’t know how book bloggers do it. Read all those books and actually articulate how they feel about them.

Yes, yes, I know that The Brown Bookshelf is a book-sih blog. But we’re not a review site. We aim to increase awareness by highlighting authors and their books – but note, rarely in the form of a review.

No matter, in honor of book blogs the world over, there’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Please, submit your fave book blogs and stay tuned to see who takes the honors.

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Anyone who takes the time to showcase books with balanced reviews is aces in my books. But what say you?

Submissions are open until August 15th.

Book Blogger Appreciation week is Sept 14-18 (cool, the same week as my Del Rio Bay Blog Tour— shameless self promotion!).

Submit and stay tuned!


It’s an honor to be nominated…

July 17, 2009

You know how, when someone loses out on an award they immediately say, “It’s just an honor to be nominated?” And being the skeptics that we sometimes are, we question if they mean it. I mean who doesn’t want to be win an award?

Anyone not want to? Anyone?

I didn’t think so.

The good thing about books is there are lots of lists that don’t involve the author having to win. And definitely, in those cases you’re psyched to be mentioned.

Over at Color Online, Susan has created a list of Great YA by or about women of color. There are authors on there who must be included (Draper, Woodson, Flake, Williams-Garcia). Then there are authors unfamiliar to me (Adichie, Kahn). And then there’s…me.

And it truly is an honor to be included. Because there are so many good books to choose from, finding a good book outside of one’s favorite authors is a lot like looking for a good contractor to work on your house – you lean on referrals you can rely on.

It’s nice to be on the recommended list and know that hungry readers may find their way to something new and me.

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Paula Chase Hyman is the author of the Del Rio Bay series, a teen lit series about a multi-cultural clique of friends.


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