Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “We Won’t Feel A Thing”

What I Read When I Write by the Magnificent Jen Lillis


 By Julie

Jen Lillis is the most unique person I’ve ever met on Twitter. Let that sink in. She sent me stinky vintage cookbooks from a basement complete with her own personal notes. So that’s impossible to top. Want to know what else she’s reading and how it helps her write? WELL HERE GOES.

This was a great idea for a blog series (though honestly, it’s Julie, so I’d have participated even if the topic was METAPHORICALLY COMPARE YOUR NEW BOOK TO THE ZONING LAWS OF YOUR HOME STATE).
I’m so grateful to the books I read during the drafting process. All of them–even the ones I don’t connect with–either teach me something, yank me out of a funk, or help me solve a problem in my WIP.
This one’s been a bear. So I’ve been reading a lot.
My latest YA novel (still untitled) is narrated by Barrie: pop-music obsessive, dogged optimist, and super-ambitious singer-songwriter. Her number-one goal is to win an American Idol-type reality competition called Pop University–but when she’s booted off early in favor of a devious neo-folk chick with tons of natural talent, she comes up with an…ah, unusual Plan B for achieving her dream.
Here are the books that have helped me the most while I spin this weird little story:

Joan Bauer, Squashed

If you’re writing a snarky, cynical YA heroine, there’s no shortage of strong narrators you can turn to for voicespiration. If you’re writing a wildly ambitious optimist, literary role models are harder to come by. I dug deep in my vintage YA archive, bypassing a 7th Heaven novelization called Winter Ball, and decided to revisit this gem from 1992. Joan Bauer proves that goodhearted, glass-half-full narrators can still be goddamn funny, and so many of her books are master classes in writing offbeat heroines with big ambitions. She takes goals that could be perceived as silly–growing a giant pumpkin, for example–and infuses them with gravity and urgency. That’s just what I’m trying to do with Barrie, and I hope I can pull it off as well as Bauer does.

Peter Shaffer, Amadeus
Since I started this book, I’ve been joking that it’s like Amadeus with female singer-songwriters. So I picked up the play again–hadn’t read it since college–and took another tour of Salieri’s jealous heart. Barrie is in kind of a similar position: a musician with noble goals who’s toiled and sacrificed for a shot at greatness, and then gets effortlessly upstaged by a true natural. (The music is probably better in Amadeus. I’m trying.)
David Levithan, Hold Me Closer
It’s tough to write a book about music. If you describe something visual well enough, your reader can see it; if you describe food, readers can almost taste it based on past experience. But it’s harder to make readers “feel” a song they haven’t heard before–even if you quote lyrics, you’re still giving them a skeleton without flesh and blood.
I’ve been looking for good, innovative examples of how to communicate the power of song within a novel, and Hold Me Closer is a book that’s kind of emboldened me. It’s a novel in the form of a musical script, and the story unfolds in the lyrics and sharp, funny stage directions. I’m not sure it completely works, but it definitely opened my mind to creative new ways of weaving music into a narrative and illuminating its significance to a character. Tiny Cooper isn’t just in love with music–he’s practically made of music. That’s what I’m trying to get across with Barrie, and I hope readers will feel that.
A.S. King, Ask the Passengers
This is my first f/f romance, so I’m turning to a master for inspiration. I’d be thrilled if my book turned out half as good as an A.S. King; she’s one of the best YA authors around. Her MC talks to planes and Socrates and it’s awesome instead of annoying. LIKE HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN.
June Foley, It’s No Crush, I’m In Love
jen lillis post
the FABULOUS, 1982-tastic cover of one of the books I mentioned (photographed in its natural habitat on my vintage YA bookshelf
I have an unreasonable amount of love for this severely underrated treasure from 1982. Describing this book does it a disservice, because it sounds like the B plot of an old Who’s the Boss? episode (young teen girl nurses massive unrequited crush on hot English teacher), but the odd-couple friendship between reserved main character Annie and the candid, uproarious Susanna Siegelbaum is more than worth the price of admission. I reread parts of this every time I need to write snappy banter between my two MCs. It’s my aspirational blueprint. (Seriously, this book is so charming–if you ever see it at a library or garage sale, pick it up. It should have won all the prizes, including Best Cover Mustache.)
Bob Stanley, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce 
My two MCs are really well versed in the history of pop music, though they approach it from different angles. So to fill the gaps in my own knowledge, I’ve been slowly digesting this thick, engaging history of pop from 1955 to present. I don’t think Barrie would approve of how cheerfully Stanley lobs spitballs at sacred cows–he describes Talking Heads as “a bunch of male musicians trying to impress Tina Weymouth with their chops”–but she’d certainly like his passion and intellectual engagement with pop in all its forms. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had doing book research.
In the words of my favorite guitarist, the forever-underrated Lindsey Buckingham, that’s all for everyone. Hope you liked this peek at my reading list–stay tuned, ’cause when the book is finally out I’ll probably be back here doing a random interview about jello molds and my favorite hats of 1994. Thanks to Julie for having me over!
Jen Lillis is the YA author of HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART and WE WON’T FEEL A THING. Lover of geeks, robots, villainous queens, haunted dollhouses, & argyle socks. Follow her and

Happy Book Birthday to WE WON’T FEEL A THING!

Today’s Brew: Never skimp on creamer. I feel like I lost two perfectly good days of my life to half and half.

by Kristen

Julie and I frequently fangirl over JC Lillis. Why? Because she’s smart and effortlessly funny. Smart and effortlessly funny are two things that translate into her writing. Today, her new book, WE WON’T FEEL A THING, is available for you to fangirl (or fanboy) over. Tell me this blurb doesn’t hook you:

Seventeen-year-old best friends Rachel and Riley are in forbidden love.

Their situation’s. . .complicated. And their timing couldn’t be worse—in just one month, he leaves for California and she starts college in New York. The absolute last thing they need is a reckless secret-love confession mucking up their perfect plans.

There’s only one logical option: scientific intervention.

Desperate for a quick fix, they sign up for WAVES, an experimental self-help program led by mysterious scientist David A. Kerning. He swears his Forbidden Love Module can turn passion back to safe platonic friendship in “six easy steps.”

But when you arm yourself with an untested program, side effects are unpredictable.

And sometimes when you fight love—love fights back.

We Won't Feel a Thing

We Won’t Feel a Thing

All of this can be yours! Just click this link. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Today, on ye ol’ blogola, Julie and I have the pleasure of interviewing JC! Guys, she’s into retro food. And fan fiction.  Read on:

Did you base WAVES on any real life program?

I didn’t, but I’ll tell you where I got the idea. Years ago, this friend of mine—he was a brilliant scientist, very much wedded to the logic-before-emotion philosophy—was giving advice to a mutual friend of ours who was having a hard time. And he said, in a very calm and common-sense kind of way, “You know, you wouldn’t get yourself in situations like these if you’d just learn how to engineer your emotions.” Which of course is a bizarre thing to say to someone in pain, right? But I kept turning it over and over, picturing him starting up his own “emotional engineering” lab and setting us up as test subjects. So that was the beginning of the David Kerning character. And at the same time, I was also kicking around this story about two (unrelated) teenagers who grew up in the same house and are wrestling with all these inappropriate feelings for each other just as their paths in life start to diverge. So David Kerning and Rachel & Riley careened into the same story orbit and sort of crashed into each other and made a giant lovely mess for me to clean up.

Do you see more of yourself in Rachel or Riley? Is there anything that either of them do that you would never, ever be able to bring yourself to do?

I see a lot of myself in both of them, though neither one is completely me. Rachel’s perfectionism and Riley’s anxiety are both dimensions of me for sure, and they totally share my sense of humor. (They’re much, much quicker with a quip than I am, though. The benefit of being a fictional character.)

Rachel in particular definitely does stuff I would never dream of doing, especially not when I was her age. She’s a planner, but she’s a BADASS planner. Like, I never would’ve had the balls to take the SATs early on the sly and apply to my dream school hundreds of miles away without my family knowing. I’ve become kind of a stealth badass in my old(er) age, but as a teenager I was definitely more like Riley—quiet and deliberate, someone very unlikely to stare down a challenge. I get in staring contests with challenges at least once every two months now, so there’s hope for him yet.

Riley is a worrier. What does Rachel worry about? What do you worry about?

Rachel is a girl with a plan; she has a very clear vision of who and what she wants to be. So she’s petrified of anything that’ll knock her off course and make her lose control. That’s why she’s so desperate to resolve her feelings for Riley—love feels very overwhelming and unwieldy, and she sees it as a direct threat to her goals. Like she says in one of the early chapters—”there’s only one kind of girl I can tolerate being, and it is not the Girl Who Gives it All Up for Love.”

As for me—the real question is, what DON’T I worry about? I can look at a paper clip and see eight ways it might cause an accidental death. You wouldn’t want to live inside my head. Here there be monsters. (And also lots of words and plots and characters and things, which is the only reason I haven’t applied for a brain transplant.)

You share my obsession with borderline repulsive mid century recipes, and I love that you actually make these masterpieces. How did this happen to us?
Well, I’m not sure what happened to YOU, but one night I dreamed I was chased through a forest of jello molds and mauled by a pack of pickled meat loaves, and when I came to, I immediately craved a library of vintage cookbooks. They’re just addictive, aren’t they? There’s this sad, heartwarming innocence to the way we ate then. The fact that women regularly constructed things like “Creamed Corn and Wiener Roasts” and served them with a straight face on the good china…I mean, that whole postwar chapter of cultural history is just endlessly fascinating to me.

And by the way, aspic is mightily offended that you called it “borderline repulsive.” It wears its mantle of revulsion PROUDLY.

You are a self described fan girl. If someone was to write a Rachel and Riley fan fic, what would you love to see happen?

Oh, yeah, I do love fanfic. I can’t tell you how thrilled I’d be if someone loved Rachel and Riley enough to write more stories about them. I could give you some ideas of stuff I’d love to see, but it wouldn’t really be about what I want. Once I write a book and put it out there, I figure the characters belong to the readers. So if anyone wants to write steampunk AU or pterodactyl porn about Rachel and Riley, HAVE AT IT. Just send me a link, okay?

Riley never wears pants with less than 5 pockets. What the hell are in these pockets?
Very small effigies of his enemies. No—he’s a mosaic artist, so he’s always picking up things he can use in his projects. Pretty stones, pieces of glass, bottle caps. He sees beauty in a lot of ordinary things, so he needs a lot of pockets to hold it all.

If you had a scientist willing to remove one thing from you so you wouldn’t feel a thing, what would it be?

Overinvestment in fictional characters. I just read some super-gross spoilers about the new Game of Thrones season, like stuff they nonsensically changed from the books, and I’m not a book purist when it comes to adaptations but these were like a horse-kick to the chest. I care way too much about the characters I love and I dearly wish there was a Distancing Button I could press to zap it away when necessary.
I love the image of the blown glass wishing hearts. What significance do they hold in the book?

OMG, you went on the Pinterest board. HOW MUCH DO I LOVE YOU. The wishing heart is given to Rachel and Riley by the very lovely, somewhat irritating Tilly Merriam, who is David’s colleague and travel partner. Riley hangs it in their window and it becomes kind of a talisman as the story unfolds.

What are Rachel and Riley’s biggest pet peeves?
Rachel plans to become the most feared and respected copy editor in New York, so grammatical errors chap her hide. Misused apostrophes are her #1 peeve. It’s really hard for her to look at a specials chalkboard in a restaurant and not make any adjustments on the sly.
Riley’s peeves: when he can’t get a mosaic to match the picture in his head, and when Rachel watches hospital dramas in his presence even though she knows he’ll end up diagnosing himself with a rare strain of pig flu.
If Rachel and Riley could run away together somewhere that none of these problems would be problems, where would they go?

You know at the end of Splash, when Tom Hanks jumps in the ocean with Daryl Hannah and becomes a quasi-merman through the magical power of handholding and they swim to the bottom of the sea in like thirty seconds flat and they see the glowing lights of her vast mermaid kingdom in the distance? That place.

I totally just spoiled Splash for everyone who wasn’t around in 1984. Wow, I’m a bastard.

I stalk you because of your casual, slightly deranged, intelligent humor, your fearless originality, and also because of your cooking skillz. Please tell me what the funniest thing is you can think of.

Okay, first of all, THANK YOU. Second of all: Jump-roping toilets. Ever since we did Harry Potter Mad Libs at the kid’s birthday party, I haven’t stopped thinking about jump-roping toilets. Mad Libs with First Graders needs to be a Comedy Central show.
Runners-up: The phrase “hand-cranked wiener warmers,” the video for “Frontier Psychiatrist” by the Avalanches, and that part in Waiting for Guffman where Christopher Guest goes “I JUST HATE YOU AND I HATE YOUR ASS FACE!” (Seriously. I want it as my ringtone:

What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done?

Besides gestating a small human who’s now at least five times cooler than I am…I gotta go with “becoming an indie author.” That and the book trailer for We Won’t Feel a Thing.

What’s the weird thing you have to do every day?

Check my heater five times before I go to bed to make sure I unplugged it. I also go into my daughter’s room to make sure the pillows aren’t too close to her face while she’s sleeping. I’ve done this since she was a toddler. SHE IS SEVEN YEARS OLD. There’s basically no chance of her escaping young adulthood with no therapy bills.

Four people you can invite to a dinner party and not one of them has to be a family member. Go. Also, what will the table linens look like?

I’m immediately disqualifying all friends from real life and Twitterlife, because there’s no way I could choose. And I’m not inviting any world leaders or Nobel Prize winners, because I want to serve spaghetti and watch Hot Fuzz and not have to polish the oyster forks.

So: I’d invite Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords, because he doesn’t get enough love, and his awkwardness would offset mine.

I’d invite Lena Headey and Janelle Monae, because they’re my primary woman crushes and they’d be so radiantly awesome that no one would notice I burned the garlic bread.

I’d also invite Wes Anderson and beg him to make a movie version of We Won’t Feel a Thing. I’d show him all the tiny pencils I made out of toothpicks for the book trailer. We would love each other so hard.

The table linens would be the finest Egyptian cotton, but would also be printed with misbehaving robots, because I spoil my guests but am not Gwyneth Paltrow.

And now, to do to you what you did to me.
1. Describe your favorite pair of shoes.

Gotta go with my light brown leather boots with antique gold buttons. They’re very steampunky. I’m not in love with steampunk, but I most definitely have unplatonic feelings toward these boots.

2. Tell me a dirty joke.

An elderly couple is getting ready for bed at night. The wife wants to spice things up, so she dashes out of the bathroom in nothing but a red satin cape and shouts “SUPER PUSSY!” The husband looks her over and says “…I’ll have the soup.”

3. What movie makes you angry?

That goddamned Kevin Spacey movie — what’s it called, The Life of David Gale? I think that’s it. I refuse to look it up because I’ll just get mad at it all over again. It’s just smug and manipulative and deeply, deeply silly, and not the good kind of silly.

4. What book makes you cry?

I’m not a huge book-crier, but the end of Don’t Think Twice by Ruth Pennebaker absolutely gutted me. It’s an older YA book and I almost hate describing it because it’s about a pregnant teen so it sounds like a Problem Novel, but it doesn’t read like one. It’s gutwrenching specifically because the girl is so sharp and funny and guarded with her emotions, and then at the end when she gives her baby up and all these real feelings start pouring out, you’re blindsided right along with her. I recommend it if you need an ugly-cry.

5. If you had to write a short story inspired by a song, which one would you pick?
“St. Louise Is Listening” by Soul Coughing, just to see if I could make something cohesive out of the lyrics. It would be a fun puzzle. (I almost said “The Night You Can’t Remember” by the Magnetic Fields, but that’s pretty much already a short story.)

6. What do you think about at night when you’re trying to fall asleep?

Usually whatever scene I’m planning to write next. Or I write scenes for my favorite fictional characters, especially if they’ve been needlessly abused by their creators. I patch them up and listen to their woes and give them cookies and good love scenes.

7. When you meet someone new, what’s the first thing you notice about him/her?
The sincerity of his/her smile. I sound like Linus, don’t I? I always wanted to sit in a sincere pumpkin patch with him. (I think there’s a lot of Linus in Riley, come to think of it.)

8. What do you think Oscar the Grouch does on trash day?

Hides out in Bert & Ernie’s apartment and instigates lovers’ quarrels.

9. As a fellow Ali G fan, I must know: Does you believe in mahogany?


I do, because it believes in itself. Self-belief is infectious.

WE WON’T FEEL A THING Watch The Pretties!

Today’s Brew: I fixed the creamer problem, and bought a huge box of the Christmas coffee. It’s smooth sailing on Whiskey Tango for a while.

by Kristen

We LOVE JC Lillis at Deadly Ever After. Love. JC came to us on Twitter and I immediately fell in love with her easy, quirky sense of humor. I loved her even more when I saw that her first book, HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART, was two teenage fanboys on tour and discovering their feelings for each other. There’s a whole other side to fandom, I’ve discovered through JC, who had to tell me what “shipping” meant.

If I wasn’t already head over heels for this girl, I have one word for you. Aspic. Yes, the mid-century jello mold that suspended the dinners of a generation. Clan Hutchings and I will spend hours sending each other pins of gross looking retro food. JC goes one better. SHE MAKES IT. And blogs about it.

So JC, I ship you, your books, and your frosted meatloaf. WE WON’T FEEL A THING, a YA contemporary romance with a subplot that could be ripped from talk TV, is coming March 31. This trailer is so well made, even if I haven’t convinced you with the jello molds or the awesome, watch it for the production value.


And now that you’re totally hooked, here’s the blurb:

Seventeen-year-old best friends Rachel and Riley are in forbidden love.

Their situation’s. . .complicated. And their timing couldn’t be worse—in just one month, he leaves for California and she starts college in New York. The absolute last thing they need is a reckless secret-love confession mucking up their perfect plans.

There’s only one logical option: scientific intervention.

Desperate for a quick fix, they sign up for WAVES, an experimental self-help program led by mysterious scientist David A. Kerning. He swears his Forbidden Love Module can turn passion back to safe platonic friendship in “six easy steps.”

But when you arm yourself with an untested program, side effects are unpredictable.

Add WE WON’T FEEL A THING on Goodreads! Come back and thank us on March 31!

COVER REVEAL We Won’t Feel A Thing–J.C. Lillis

Today’s Brew: Blueberry. You knew that. Stop judging me. And probably hot cocoa later since it’s snowing

by Kristen

Today we are excited to reveal the cover of our friend J.C. Lillis’ brand new book, WE WON’T FEEL A THING. It will be available March 31!

We Won't Feel a Thing

We Won’t Feel a Thing

J. C. tells us about her inspiration for the cover:

I had this cover idea in my head pretty early on—the waves are a recurring image, and there’s also a Significant Umbrella in the story. I worked closely with my awesome cover designer, Mindy Dunn, who took the basic idea and made it beauteous. The book is whimsical and romantic (and hopefully funny), and I think the cover captures the tone really well. I hope you like it!

And the book sounds amazing:

Seventeen-year-old best friends Rachel and Riley are in forbidden love.

Their situation’s. . .complicated. And their timing couldn’t be worse—in just one month, he leaves for California and she starts college in New York. The absolute last thing they need is a reckless secret-love confession mucking up their perfect plans.

There’s only one logical option: scientific intervention.

Desperate for a quick fix, they sign up for WAVES, an experimental self-help program led by mysterious scientist David A. Kerning. He swears his Forbidden Love Module can turn passion back to safe platonic friendship in “six easy steps.”

But when you arm yourself with an untested program, side effects are unpredictable.

And sometimes when you fight love—love fights back.

About J. C.:

JCL Author PhotoJ.C. Lillis lives in Baltimore with her patient family and a ragtag band of tropical fish, some of which will be dead by the time you read this. WE WON’T FEEL A THING is her second YA novel; she also wrote HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART, because she wanted to read a book about two sci-fi fanboys in love and there wasn’t one handy. She loves koi ponds, abandoned amusement parks, and peanut butter & banana sandwiches. She hates paper cuts, cabbage, and writing bios.

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