September 29, 2014

An Author a (Mon)day: Joy N. Hensley

Today, I'm sharing an interview I did with Joy N. Hensley! Joy is the author of Rites of Passage, which is an incredibly impressive YA debut and one that I personally really liked. I'll be sharing a little bit of info about her book towards the end, but for now, please welcome Joy!

Joy N Hensley author photo
Alexa: Thanks for agreeing to an interview, Joy! So, let's get things started - I'm really curious to find out: where did you get the idea for Rites of Passage?

Joy: Well, I'm somewhat of a risk-taker/daredevil/do-stupid-things kind of person. So... when my freshman year at college wasn't all I thought it would be, I decided to look for a challenge. After talking to a friend about what I wanted to do, she dared me to go to a military college. If I made it through the year, she'd give me $25. So... I went. That's where the root of the story came from. The idea for my main character Sam came from the fact that I wish I had done better in military school than I did. I survived by "Rook" year - the first year for recruits in military school - but I look back and wish I had done more and been more, you know? So, Sam is who I wish I could have been at that point in my life.

Alexa: Sam is pretty kick-ass, honestly. I wouldn't be capable of doing half the things (or even a fourth of the things) she does in Rites of Passage. So, speaking of kick-ass, I also think the setting and details were so great! What sort of research did you wind up doing for the book?

Joy: In all honesty, there was very little. I read a lot of my emails I sent home during my time at military school, watched videos of me at military school - everything was very me-centered, apparently! The most important thing I wanted to get right was rank and structure. I talked to friends in the military and showed them what I wanted/needed them to be and they made sure it worked, or I reworked my characters to make sure they fit. Any mistakes there might be are definitely my own. Sometimes rank and structure are hard to figure out!

Alexa: I can't even keep track of them all, so I'm sure it must have been quite a feat! Props to all the military school cadets + military members who manage to do so. So, Rites of Passage, your debut novel is out in the world. How does it feel to be a published author?

Joy: It is, quite literally, a dream come true. I'm giddy, excited, and terrified, all rolled into one. I can't wait for it to get into people's hands and have them reading my words!

Alexa: Well, your novel is so awesome that I can't wait for it to get into other people's hands either! (Mostly for the sole purpose of gushing, obviously.) Ahem, so, before the novel, there was writing. What first got you into writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer? Or was it something that you stumbled across later on?

Joy: I've wanted to be a published author since I was in 3rd grade. I remember my first story (horrible fan fiction of a Nickelodeon show called "Hey, Dude!"), the first teacher who believed I could write, and the mentor who made me believe in myself as a writer. It took me a long time to realize, though, that you can't just want to be a writer. If it's your dream, you've got to work for it. Write. Read. Revise. Repeat.

Alexa: Absolutely! It took a while before I realized writing was fun, but it also required me to actually put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. So, writing-wise, do you have any fun quirks or habits? Tips?

Joy: For me, each book has been different. One needs a soundtrack, another needs total silence. One likes to be written during the day, another late at night. I guess my quirk is that I let each book speak to me and I just follow along as I can. Habits? Um... Eating horrible food while drafting. Does that count?

Alexa: I think that definitely counts as a habit! (It may be horrible, but it tastes oh, so good!) So, I'm gonna wager a guess and say you're writing more stories to share. What's up next for you?

Joy: I'm working on a rewrite of my second Harper Teen book, which is set in the world of mixed martial arts. It's a world I'm completely interested and invested in. Can't wait for you guys to read this one!

Alexa: You had me at mixed martial arts! (But seriously, I need this book already.) Good luck with rewriting! So, for fun, tell me - What are you currently reading? Watching? Listening to?


Reading: Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas (IN: Yes! Yes! Yes! I fully endorse and support this reading choice. I just finished Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch, which comes out in October. I'm on a fantasy kick right now for some reason.

Watching: Veronica Mars (binge watching like a boss - I don't know how I missed this when it first came out!), and so excited for Outlander. It's a book of my heart and I'm excited/terrified to see it turned into a television show.

Listening: Bastille in the car, 50s and 60s music on my computer

Alexa: I see we have a ton of common interests (fantasy novels + Bastille), which is pretty darn awesome. Thanks for sharing your current favorites with us, Joy, and for answering all my interview questions! It was so great to have you on the blog. Congratulations again on Rites of Passage!

Rites of Passage Joy Hensley book cover
Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: September 9, 2014

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out. At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences. (from Goodreads)

Why should you read this book? First of all, I never ever ever in my wildest dreams imagined I would fall so hard for a military academy novel. But I did! Rites of Passage is, without a doubt, one of the best 2014 young adult debut novels. The story is just the right combination: steady levels of drama, perfect pacing and real characters. I fell in love with Sam McKenna, and her story roped me in from start to finish. (It also helps that there's a certain Drill Sergeant Stamm to love too.) [For more thoughts, you can check out my review! I also did a special {Bookish} Style Files for the book.]


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