Research for Love Spell by Mia Kerick – Guest Post and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Mia will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Hello everyone at Long and Short Reviews! I am thrilled to be here today to promote my book Love Spell, about a gender fluid teen’s struggles in life and love. For Love Spell, research about gender identity confusion was critical to the accuracy of my main character, and so today, I will discuss the research I conduct for my YA novels.

I write about touchy subjects. So I have to get it right. And I have covered an assortment of sensitive topics in my YA writing.

Young Adult Topics:
Love Spell—a teenager’s struggle with gender confusion.
The Red Sheet—bullying in a high school setting of a gay student, told in the perspective of the bully.
Intervention—sexual abuse of a minor by a stepsibling.
Us Three—serious emotional and physical bullying of a gay student by a clique of high school girls, leading to the development of a love relationship of three boys.
Come To My Window—relationship struggles with mothers and mother figures, closely related to body acceptance issues.
Inclination—a teenage boy’s struggle to find his place as a devout gay Christian.

I conducted a variety of types of research prior to writing each of these novels; I read entire books on the various subjects, located and examined personal victim and abuser testimony online, viewed DVDs of teens expressing their feelings, asked questions to online organizations, discussed the topics in phone conversations with people who survived similar experiences, and more. When dealing with topics of this nature, especially in the creation of a book intended for a YA audience, you can’t be cavalier. You must be diligent and accurate and extremely cautious, all the while showing sensitivity.

I have never experienced criticism from readers and reviewers who said to me, “You got that all wrong.” In fact, I’ve been informed in personal conversations and through written reviews that my characters’ descriptions of their experiences with bullying and violence and emotional upheaval have been accurate and moving and “right on the money.”

I have, however, received criticism from people who have not liked the end results in some of my books; in other words, there are readers who express dissatisfaction that in my YA novels the bully isn’t always properly punished, or that the abused person decides not to come forward to formally identify his abuser. In defense of my decision to, at times, not have the victims in my YA novels seek justice, I will say that, although it is not ideal, and it may not be the ideal model of behavior for YA readers, what I write is indicative of reality. Most male sexual abuse victims and many bullying victims do not come forward to identify their abusers. Many teens do not seek justice against abusive and neglectful parents, nor do they always get the counseling help that they need. This is reality. I believe that teen readers need to be aware of it. That way, they can make their own decisions in regard to what is the better way to go.

In preparation for writing Love Spell, a book that deals with the gender fluidity of a teenage boy, I conducted a great deal of research about gender identity confusion in children and teens, often referred to as Gender Identity Disorder and Gender Dysphoria. I read about the struggles of transgender teens, including the stories of many teens who have recently taken their lives as a result of their pain (and I experienced great anger and disgust at the useless loss of life). I studied the various complicated terms for the many different shades of gender identity on the gender spectrum, and I found that many of the terms seemed to overlap one another or not describe to a tee each individual’s perception of his/her gender. I finally came to believe that someone’s gender identity is rarely on one end of the spectrum or the other, but that it falls somewhere in between.

from True Liberal Nexus

In Love Spell, Chance César knows that his gender identity is not the traditional boy or girl. He has conducted the very same online searches that I did in an effort to figure out, as he puts it, “what I am.” And not for the lack of trying, Chance hasn’t come to a definite conclusion in finding the right term for his specific gender identity. In fact, he is not emotionally ready to do this. He has, however, realized that he does not want to transition from male to female. Chance’s conclusion to this point is as follows: I just want to be as masculine or feminine as I feel at any given day, hour, or minute. Chance admits to his BFF alone that although he detests gender identity labels, he still wishes he could find one that works for him.

Chance César is the character in Love Spell who I refer to as gender fluid. (He might have a word or two to say about this label, as, in his opinion, “labels suck donkey balls.”) My research in writing Chance was thorough, however the discussion on the subject is fluid, as well. And so Love Spell is a story of a boy without a label.

MediaKit_BookCover_LoveSpellStrutting his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug orange tuxedo as this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon feels so very right to Chance César, and yet he knows it should feel so very wrong.

As far back as he can remember, Chance has been “caught between genders.” (It’s quite a touchy subject; so don’t ask him about it.) However, he does not question his sexual orientation. Chance has no doubt about his gayness—he is very much out of the closet at his rural New Hampshire high school, where the other students avoid the kid they refer to as “girl-boy.”

But at the local Harvest Moon Festival, when Chance, the Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue, the Pumpkin Carving King, sparks fly. So Chance sets out, with the help of his BFF, Emily, to make “Jazz” Donahue his man.

An article in an online women’s magazine, Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You (with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure), becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.

Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Shine On, Harvest Moon

Just call me brazen.

It occurs to me that brazen—unabashedly bold and without an inkling of shame—is the perfectly appropriate word to describe moi right about now. It is, however, the only perfectly appropriate part of this evening. Which is perfectly appropriate, in my humble opinion. So get over it.

I lift my chin just enough to stop the stiff orange spikes of glitter-gelled hair from flopping forward onto my forehead. But who can blame me? These spikes are razor sharp—best they stay upright on my head where they belong—and gravity can only do so much to that end.

Okaaaayyyy… sidetracked much?

*Let’s take it from the top.

Chance César is a brazen B.

I stare ‘em down, but only after I pop the collar of the blinding “Orange Crush” tuxedo I’m rockin’ and shrug my shoulders in a sort of what-the-fuck fashion. Rule of thumb in this queen’s life—first things must always come first.

Pop, shrug, and only then is it kosher to stare.

*Clears throat.

“Eat your ginger-haired heart out, Prince Harry.” Based on the buzz of scandalized chatter blowing about in the crisp evening breeze, I’m reasonably certain that nobody in the crowd heard me speak. And although several of the girls currently gawking at me may do double backflips over my red-haired counterpart across the pond, Prince Harry of Wales, they don’t give a rat’s ass about Chance César. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that they view my atomic tangerine locks as more reminiscent of Bozo the Clown than of the sexy singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.

They are, however, completely unaware that this carrot top is going to make Harvest Moon Festival history tonight.

Refusing to succumb to the impulse to duck my head, I take a single shaky step forward on the stage that’s been set up on the dusty ground beside the vast (by New England standards) cornfield. The stage doesn’t wobble, but my knees sure as shit do. Okay, so I’m a freaking honest diva and I tell it like it is. And I’m what you might call a wreck.

Nonetheless, this brazen B takes a deep breath, blows it out in a single gush, and starts to strut. I mean, this boy’s werkin’ it.

Smi-zeee!! Yeah, my smile is painted on, just like my trousers.

Chance, you are by far the edgiest Miss Harvest Moon this ramshackle town has ever had the good fortune to gaze upon.

I am a major fan of positive self-talk.

Using the feigned British accent that I’ve perfected—thanks to long hours of tedious practice in my bathroom—I dish out my next thought aloud. “I wish I’d put in a tad more practice walking in these bloody heels before going public in ‘em.” And despite one slight stumble—a close call to be sure—the clicking sound my pumps make is crisp and confident. I saunter out onto the catwalk.

#trueconfessions: Faking foreign accents is a hobby of mine. I can yammer it up in improvised French, German, Mexican, Russian, and plenty more accents, but I don’t mimic Asian languages, as it seems too close to ridicule. My plan for the rest of the night is to continue vocalizing my abundant thoughts in Standard British, with just a hint of Cockney thrown in for charm. New Hampshire is the “live free or die” state and I’ll do what I laaaa-like. Yaaasss!

“Introducing this year’s lovely… or, um, handsome Miss…ter… Harvest Moon. Let’s hear an enthusiastic round of applause for Chance César!” Mrs. Higgins always speaks using a lolling Southern twang, although I’m sure she’s lived her entire life right here in less-than-gentile, way-too-many-dirt-roads, Fiske, New Hampshire. Like, can you say “backwoods Fiske” without it sounding too much like “backwards Fiske”? But, overall, I’m pleased—it seems I’m not the only one with an affinity for a colorful accent.

The applause is—to be real—disappointingly, but not surprisingly, scattered.

“Woot!” A solitary hoot splits the night—it’s quite impossible to miss—and I recognize an undeniably shrill and nasal quality in the sound. I know without a doubt that the hooter is my best (only) friend, Emily Benson. In my not so humble opinion, Emily’s hooting for my benefit sounds as liberating as Lady Gaga bellowing “Born This Way” live on the Grammy Awards after emerging from a large egg.

My Emily is everything!! Not to be dramatic.

In any case, that single, supportive hoot is followed by mucho expected heckling.

“Chances are, Chance César is gonna moon the crowd!” That’s a girl’s voice, for sure. I do not have a large female fan base here in Fiske.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_LoveSpellMia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, CoolDudes Publishing, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Stop by Mia’s Blog with questions or comments, or simply share what’s on your mind. Find Mia on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

    • Hello Mai T. and thank you for asking me a question today. I have never really thought about whether there was an area I wouldn’t go, as an author. I guess, rather than offering you a specific topic I would avoid, I will say this: if I felt I could not get a sufficiently clear and accurate picture of the subject through research, I would not try to write a book on the subject. I write about sensitive topics, so it is essential that I thoroughly understand and can relate to it, otherwise I would be doing more harm than good.

  3. Hi Mia! Happy Release Day! I have my copy! I have read several of your YA books and I think they are well researched. And that’s why I enjoy reading your stories. The Red Sheet is still my favorite! But I think my favorite character is Chance! He’s the most intriguing character. So much hiding underneath that shocking orange hair!

    • I have a major soft spot for The Red Sheet, as well, but Chance César might have been my favorite character to write. I found myself laughing out loud while editing. Thank you for commenting and Cheez-doodle colored hair is not for the faint of heart!

  4. Good morning, Long and Short Reviews! I’m so happy to be here this morning as I promote my new release Love Spell! Thank you for allowing me to talk about the sensitive topic of gender identity on your blog today!!

  5. Congratulations.

    Are your stories based in reality?

    • That’s a good question and I will say that my books are not based on personal stories, as in I know someone who this happened to, but in my research I come across many stories of similar experiences. I put all of the stories and research together in my mind, and come up with a uniques storyline. In this case, I read so many stories about transgender teens and other teens under the *trans umbrella who attempted/committed suicide, that I felt it was time for a story about a character who endures the same pain. Great question!

  6. Sabrina D. says:

    can’t wait to pick this up!

    • Well, Sabrina! Thank you very much! Chance César is a character who you may find abrasive but you will soon see that there is more to him than meets the eye. Some readers have called him their hero before the end of the book! I would love to know how you like it!

  7. Cheri Oggy says:

    I really enjoyed reading about you and also enjoyed the excerpt.

    • Thank you, Cheri. I am glad my post kept you awake!! LOL!! Just kidding, but in this book I use a lot of sass and style and you could probably see that from the excerpt. I threw myself into the “Chance” character, so much so that I found myself thinking “oh, I love that fab pink sweater–it’s totes adorbs” when shopping at Talbots!! I hope you decide to pick up a copy of Love Spell.

  8. Rita Wray says:

    I enjoyed the excerpt, thank you.

  9. Amanda Sakovitz says:

    Thank you for the chance!

  10. momjane says:

    I really enjoyed your comments. Very true and very interesting.

    • Hi momjane! I am glad that you found my guest post interesting. I find researching the topics for my book to be so much fun. That is the kind of mind I have, so talking about my research on gender identity was a great opportunity. Thanks for saying hello!

  11. Thank you, Cheri. I am glad my post kept you awake!! LOL!! Just kidding, but in this book I use a lot of sass and style and you could probably see that from the excerpt. I threw myself into the “Chance” character, so much so that I found myself thinking “oh, I love that fab pink sweater–it’s totes adorbs” when shopping at Talbots!! I hope you decide to pick up a copy of Love Spell.

  12. Cali W. says:

    Thanks for the giveaway! This book sounds really cute. 😉

    • Thanks Cali. I think in some ways Love Spell is cute, and then when you look at it a little deeper, you notice that Chance’s snarky, witty behavior hides a lot of pain and insecurity. I hope you check it out!!

  13. nice excerpt

  14. Thank you for reading the excerpt. It is how the book start, and I intentionally used a stream-of-consciousness type of thought process because there really are no rules for Chance César as he tells his story. Glad you could stop by and comment.

  15. Betty W says:

    I enjoyed the excerpt! Thank you for sharing!

  16. Hi Betty! So glad you enjoyed the excerpt of Love Spell! Thanks for stopping by and reading it and making a comment!!

    • Betty W says:

      Thank you, Mia! I also really enjoyed finding out more about you. You seem to have a great sense of humor!

  17. Ree Dee says:

    I have really enjoyed everything that I have read by Mia. This book sounds great! Thank you.

  18. Thomas Murphy says:

    sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.

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