Last Chance Summer Review & Author Interview!

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Today I’m excited to not only feature my review for Last Chance Summer, but also an interview with the author!

(Scroll down past my review if you’d like to check out the synopsis for this book!)

My Review:

Last Chance Summer by Shannon Klare

Audience: Young Adult

Genre: Romance/Contemporary

*I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an HONEST review*

If you’re craving a fun yet poignant YA contemporary romance that is full of summer vibes and witty banter, make sure you add this book to your TBR! Although the romance was cute, for sure, what stuck out most to me in the book was the vivid camp atmosphere (which made me nostalgic for past summers in which I was a camp counselor), and our MC Alex’s character development. Alex has attempted to be strong in the face of unimaginable loss and regret, and watching her find a path toward healing and joy was wonderful. I think anyone who has ever experienced loss in their lives can find a piece of themselves in Alex and her journey.

I also loved that the teen campers were challenging, but not 2-D “bratty teens” placed just to torment Alex. These girls had legitimate struggles and pain in their own lives–reasons for being the way they were–and I enjoyed seeing how Alex found ways to build relationships with them. Again, it reminded me so strongly of working with challenging kids at camp who deep down, really just needed to know they were cared about, valued, and respected.

Of course, the main reason I tend to pick up a YA romance is for…you guessed it…the romance! As a die-hard Jane Austen fan, I’m always here for witty banter. Klare really served it up in this one. Both Grant and Alex, despite their rough edges, are such likable characters with their wit and sarcasm. I can’t help but admire their confidence and intelligence, as well as their strength in the face of difficulties.

All in all, despite some heavy topics, this book still managed to be a quick, light read. I appreciated that Klare handled difficult subject matter in a way that was raw and real, yet didn’t leave me feeling hopeless or down. Instead, the book provides honesty and inspiration while also still giving readers the perfect summer escape. There are plenty of moments to make you swoon, smile, outright laugh, or just sigh in longing for a chance to retreat to summer camp again.

 

Synopsis:

Alex is a sheriff’s daughter with a less than pristine reputation. When she’s caught drinking at a party by her dad’s deputy, she’s in deep trouble. With an already incriminating incident in her past, Alex’s parents ship her off to her aunt’s summer camp to work as a counselor.

What’s worse than spending your summer deep in the mosquito-infested woods of Texas?

Being paired with an obnoxious co-counselor who wants nothing to do with you.

Alex is determined to make the best of her summer, even if it means putting up with Grant, who has secrets of his own that he’s determined to protect. Can Alex and Grant put their egos to the side and find the bright side of a summer that neither of them signed up for?

 

Interview with Shannon Klare:

 

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was young. I would pull up WordPad on my old school Mac and would jot down various ideas.  I can’t remember any of them, but I remember enjoying writing way back then.  I don’t think it was until 2012 that I finally put my material out there for the world to read. After receiving positive feedback, it kind of pushed me into seriously pursuing this career.

What’s your favorite part about writing? Least favorite? 

My favorite part of writing is that I can put little pieces of my personality and the personality of my friends in family into the characters.  There are a trillion inside jokes put in their conversations and situations, and only the people who really know me will pick up on them.  My least favorite part of writing is editing.  I don’t plot as much as I should, so I always end up on this long and sometimes confusing path to the end of the story.  Going back and adjusting the timeline so it makes sense and is believable is the worst!  It’s an absolute necessity, but it’s my least favorite part.

Do you have a particular time of day you write or writing schedule you follow?

I usually try to write in the early afternoon (1:00 – 2:00ish), or late at night.  That’s if I get a chance to write at all.  My day-to-day routine can be a little hectic, so trying to carve out a block of time to dedicate toward writing isn’t always realistic.  I need to make it a point to schedule time, but sometimes that’s impossible.

What inspired you to write a YA romance set at a summer camp?

Attending summer camp was one of my favorite memories of my teenage years.  I liked getting to be around people I hadn’t seen for a year, and meeting new people.  I also loved the nighttime campfires, afternoons in Arts & Crafts, and sitting at the lake for early morning camp gatherings.  Camp was just this amazing place to be, so I really wanted to dedicate one of my stories to that atmosphere.

Which character did you relate to more: Alex or Grant? 

I probably relate better to Grant.  Alex was a difficult character to write because she’s so different from my personality.  Grant, on the other hand, has the same sense of humor and some of the same interests as me.  

Which side character did you enjoy writing the most? Which character was the most difficult to write? 

I really enjoyed writing Jess.  She was this easy going and likeable character, with a jaded background that made her similar to Alex but different.  The most difficult character was Loraine.  Getting into the headspace of her character was extremely hard, and making her firm but not harsh was also difficult.

Which scene/moment from your book is your favorite?

My favorite scene to write was the one that takes place in Lufkin.  I don’t live far from there, so I venture into Lufkin quite often.  I’ve also gone to that Starbucks and Hobby Lobby, and I’ve done some geocaching similar to the geocaching that takes place in the story.  My other favorite scenes were the ones that take place on the cabin porch.  Something about early mornings at camp bring back this nostalgic feel and memories of dew laden grass, cool humidity clinging to the air, and the smell of coffee drifting from a travel mug.

There were some emotional aspects to your book. Did you draw on personal experiences to write those? 

Yep.  I won’t go into depth, but I know how it feels to lose someone you love and what it feels like to carry regrets about your last interaction with them.  I think putting those emotions into the story were some of the hardest parts but necessary.

Ultimately, what lessons (if any) would you love readers to carry away from your book? 

My goal for LAST CHANCE SUMMER was for people to step outside their viewpoint and see Alex as a flawed character but accept her for who she was.  Alex had endured a situation most of us would never have to endure at her age.  That molded who she was as a character and set her on a path she had to learn to navigate on her own.  I think as a reader it’s easy for us to quickly judge her for her actions, and disagree with her attitude or motives, but as a person she was changed by her situation.  This happens in real life as well, so I hope watching her arc throughout the story helps people realize a flawed person isn’t a bad one.  They’re growing and learning and their actions aren’t wrong just because we think they are.  I think I did a good job at getting that message across.  I hope I did. 

Are you able to give us any hints on what you’re writing now? 

I have a couple of ideas floating around in my head, a few of which I’m still trying to plot out.  My favorite at the moment is about an undercover high school matchmaker.  It’s light and fresh and funny, and I think it’s going to be a ton of fun to write!

Want to add this one to your summer reading list? You can grab a copy of Last Chance Summer on Amazon today.

The Power of Books

As a girl, I was in awe of books, and authors who could dream up such fantastic worlds and characters and then describe them so vividly, you could see everything playing out like a movie in your head. I’d stay up late at night turning the pages of an Agatha Christie mystery, too wired on the suspense to sleep. I’d swoon over Mr. Darcy and I’d root for Samwise Gamgee, the unlikely hero and loyal friend, facing the terrors of Mordor to save our other unlikely hero, Frodo Baggins. I even devoured Dickens’s Great Expectations, though I struggle to get through his wordy passages now.

Still, I couldn’t fully appreciate everything an author must go through to produce a single work until I finally, finally, finished Silent Kingdom. Book one was definitely the longest adventure in this series for me thus far; I was brainstorming and writing book two, Forsaken Kingdom, as I edited and revised the first, so FK progressed much faster. SK took years. I started with a terrible short story concept that grew into a far better full-length novel, and then into a series.

Agonizing over the plot, poking it here and there to try to find every possible hole? I’ve done that. Holding my breath as my writing mentor and friend and then my beta readers sent me feedback? Check. Rereading and rereading again, pulling apart sentences to rework them, only to put them back the way they originally were? You bet I’ve done that too.

But perhaps the hardest writing stage was the part where I set my book aside.

On a beautiful, sunny afternoon in September, I was writing my book in my spare time between the two jobs I worked…while a few miles down the road, my parents were in the accident that took their lives. Through my journey with grief, and maybe especially because I knew I’d been writing–doing something I loved as they died, which felt like the ugliest of ironies–I pushed aside books. I couldn’t read or write as I did before. I couldn’t live or be myself as I did before. Happiness, and anything that brought happiness, felt like guilt. Everything was darkness.

Then, gradually, the light started to return. I remembered how much my parents had believed in me. I remembered who I was again. I couldn’t give it up because they died or I hurt. In fact, that was the greatest reason to embrace my passion again. To make them proud. To make the most of whatever time I had left on earth, when life is so fragile.

I believe most authors have testimonies like that. Every book we write holds a piece of our hearts and souls. Each book is a journey, and it reflects our own life journeys maybe just as much as it reflects our characters’ journeys. And each reader relates to these journeys in their own ways, based on whatever they are going through.

Maybe that, most of all, is what makes books so awe-inspiring to us all.

Just 15 Minutes a Day

The problem with undertaking any big project or goal, including writing a novel, is that it feels massive. (Obviously.)

When I tell myself, “I need to write today,” it’s easy for me to have a long list of excuses…

I’m not feeling inspired right now.

I’m tired.

I don’t have time. 

Maybe later.

It’s hard trying to write books and take that passion seriously, while also working a full-time job. Right? Life gets busy, and it’s unfortunately all-too-easy to push aside what I’ve called a “hobby” for years.

But this year, I want to treat writing as another job. Because it’s not just a hobby to me–it’s a passion. And that means it needs to be a priority.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received for taking my writing seriously is to just carve out 15 minutes each day. That’s all. No matter how busy I get, it’s easy to set aside 15 minutes for something, right?

I mean, I spend more time on my phone at the end of the day, doing absolutely nothing productive. Surely I can sit down and write anything, whether it be writing my book or a blog post or whatever else comes to mind, to keep my creative juices flowing.

And you know what?

It’s totally worked. 

In fact, by giving myself a small, manageable writing goal, I’ve consistently written every day since the end of December, usually for longer periods of time than 15 minutes (because once I start, I realize I do have some ideas floating around in my brain and I do have more than 15 minutes right then to dedicate to writing.

It’s kept my momentum going with my book (Silent Kingdom # 3) and, I hope, will help me continue to strengthen my writing skills. It definitely leaves no room for the “I have writer’s block” excuse.

Because even if I write total crap, I can definitely always write something for 15 minutes, and that means…there is no writer’s block.

If you want it enough, you’ll make the time and find the motivation to do it.

What tips or tricks have helped you accomplish a big goal, writing-related or otherwise?