Sunday, August 11, 2013

Letters to Nowhere Tour [Review + Interview + Excerpt +Giveaway] by Julie Cross

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Letters to Nowhere

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest series

A Mature YA contemporary set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics. Grief, love and pursuing dreams are at the forefront of this emotionally powerful coming-of-age story.

Seventeen year old Karen Campbell has just lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Grief stricken and alone, her gymnastics coach opens his home to Karen, providing her a place to live while she continues to train, working toward a spot on the world championship team. 

Coach Bentley’s only child, seventeen year old Jordan is good-looking and charming enough to scare away a girl like Karen—someone who has spent ten times more hours on balance beams and uneven bars than talking or even thinking about boys. But the two teens share a special connection almost immediately. It turns out Jordan has a tragic past of his own, grief buried for years. 

As Karen’s gymnastics career soars, her nightmares and visions of the horrible accident grow in strength. She can only avoid facing her grief for so long before it begins to surface and ultimately spin out of control in a very dangerous way. Can discovering love and lust (simultaneously) help with the grieving process or will it only provide a temporary distraction while waiting for reality to hit full force

Author Bio
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
I live in central Illinois with my wonderful husband and three kids currently between the ages of 7 and 12 (the kids not the husband). My writing journey began in May, 2009 with a short story in a notebook.

 Within a year, I had written seven (some good some God-awful) young adult novels. Not being a college graduate and having spent the previous fifteen years teaching gymnastics and working as a YMCA Program Director for Recreational Gymnastics, professional writing wasn't in my plans. Not even close. But ever since the day I started that short story, I haven't been able to stop. It was love at first sight.

 After about a year of writing, I had a three book deal with St. Martin's Press, and a film option with Summit Entertainment. Crazy, right? I know. It wasn't until August of 2011 that I quit working full time in order to be at home with my kids more and of course, write more. My young adult time travel debut novel, Tempest, released on January 17, 2012. The rest of my personal story remains unwritten.

Author Interview

1) If you are keen on picking favorites, do you have a favorite character from Letters to Nowhere? Why is he (or she) your favorite?

JC: Karen, my main character, is my favorite to write mostly because I’ve wanted to write a book narrated from the point of view of an elite gymnast since my author journey first began. I absolutely love capturing that socially sheltered mindset and pairing it up with a level of maturity and discipline that most adults don’t have. That’s the essence of women’s elite gymnastics. Young girls carrying big loads of responsibility and self-awareness. They have it completely together, there’s always a plan for what’s next. With Karen, I gave her all of those qualities and then I pulled the rug out from under her by taking away her parents in a car accident before the book opens. Then: *Enter cute boy* whom she is forced to share a bathroom with. Who has a tragic past of his own. Who may be the only one that can help her heal.  

Karen’s coach, Coach Bentley, is the character I’m most proud of creating in Letters to Nowhere. He’s one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever written in the sense that he can do exactly the right thing with one person and the complete wrong thing with another person. He evolved that way naturally, but when I got halfway through the book, I started to worry that he wasn’t consistent in his behavior. But then I remembered a gymnastics coaches’ training workshop I attended years ago on teaching preschool gymnastics. The instructor talked about discipline in the class and how it’s very easy to prevent behavior problems following her methods, then she went on to add, “but discipline at home with your own children is a completely different ball game.” Not only is this a hundred percent true, but it’s also what you’ll see with Coach Bentley after Karen moves in with him and his teenage son, Jordan. Karen’s impression of her coach is so different than the way Jordan views his dad. The dynamic created all kinds of layers to the story. 

2)  Were you nervous when you decided to venture outside of your Sci-Fi series and write a contemporary novel? It paid off big time, in my opinion. But did you have any reservations at first?

KC: I wasn’t nervous to write the book, but I was super, super nervous to tell people about it. Especially online to Tempest series fans. I honestly figured I’d finish the book so the characters would stop tormenting me inside my head, which I know it sounds a little schizophrenic, but it’s the truth and probably never publish it. And just hearing you say that it paid off means that it totally has. I’ve pleased at least one reader. Mission accomplished. Thanks so much for that. (:

3)  There are some pretty intense and sweet relationships between the characters in Letters to Nowhere. Which character relationship –besides Jaren (Jordan and Karen)- was your favorite to write and develop?

JC: Here I go again with Coach Bentley, but I can’t help it. The father/son dynamics are really interesting to write, especially with these two. And then the coach/elite gymnast dynamic is my next favorite because it’s such an unique situation when you think about it. These gymnasts train 40 hours a week, and like Karen many are not one-on-one with their coach, they have teammates. But it’s more time than any teenager spends with their parents typically. And even with all that time together, there are aspects of each other’s lives that they don’t know about. Until they move in together, anyway. 

4)  Gymnastics is a huge part of this novel (well, obviously). I read on your website that you were a former gymnastics coach. How excited were you to combine your passions for writing and gymnastics into one project?

JC: It was like Disney World, Universal Studios and a house right on the beach all packaged into one trip that didn’t even require packing or travel time. I enjoyed every phase of creating this story so much, I felt guilty calling it my job. 

5)  There are some pretty heartbreaking scenes in the book. Do you get extremely attached to your characters? If so, how do you feel when you have to write a scene that is going to be particularly hard on them? 

JC: Normally, I struggle with getting all the tension I need in a first draft because it becomes so difficult to put characters I love through all this emotional trauma. Often I have to step away from the story for a while and then I raise the stakes in the next draft. But with Letters to Nowhere, I had no problem shoving the characters into flaming fire after fire because I knew that in order for Karen (and also Jordan and Coach Bentley) to properly grieve and begin to heal, there was only one way to get past the fire—run straight through it. And the whole time I was writing this book, I knew Karen was a bomb waiting to go off. I knew she’d need to have that moment of realization about her future and what losing her parents really meant. And I wanted to get her there so I could see that she was okay. 

6)  I loved the title and it’s correlation to the story. If you were writing a book about your own life, what would you title it?

JC: Hmm…that’s a tough one. When I was the age of most of my characters, I never planned on being an author. It wasn’t even on my radar. I wanted to be a P.E. teacher, continue coaching gymnastics, maybe open my own gym someday. I also thought child labor sounded so terrible that I never imagined I’d do it. Even though I’ve always been good with kids. Now I have three of my own so my title would be something like, “You Have No Idea” because that’s how I feel most of the time. I’ve learned to not expect anything in the future. Too many sharp 180 turns have happened over the years. 

7)  If you would describe your book using one sentence, what would it be?

JC: Maybe Sarah Dessen meets Make It Or Break It? Or Sarah Dessen meets Miranda Kenneally. 

8)  What was the hardest part of writing Letters to Nowhere?

JC: Nothing was really hard to write, but I worked the hardest at making the gymnastics element “user friendly” in the sense that I wanted this to be a book for the widest audience possible while still showing a true portrayal of the sport. 

9)  What was your favorite part?

JC: The evolution of “Jaren” hands down. The relationship between Karen and Jordan is built in a way that I hadn’t done before in novel. Not exactly. I rarely do the insta-love thing but what they have is so much deeper than romantic love. Not to spoil anything in the book or future books in this world, but I truly believe that Jordan and Karen will always have a tie that can’t be severed no matter where their paths lead them. They could never hate each other. Many people look back on their first love and the relationship and drama often seem silly. It won’t be like that for these two. Their relationship will always represent a hugely important part of their lives. 

I also really loved writing Karen’s therapy sessions with Jackie. 

10)  Will you be writing more contemporaries in the future? [Please say yes.. (: ]

JC: Oh yes! Actually, I have a contemporary New Adult (18 year old main characters so it’s very close to YA), HALFWAY PERFECT, that I wrote with Tempest series cover model, Mark Perini. We recently sold it, but it’s not officially announced yet. It’s set in the world of NYC models and the fashion industry, with a splash of Ivy League college and a darker theme that I’m incredibly proud of as far sending a message to readers.  I also plan to write two more books in the LtN (Letters to Nowhere) world tentatively titled RETURN TO SENDER and LETTERS TO YOU. And…I have another YA/NA crossover set in the world of professional baseball and it should release this fall with a small press, but it’s also not announced yet so I can’t give too many details here.  

11)  I would like to end the interview with something fun. Can you tell me something fun/random/wonky/crazy about yourself or your writing habits?

JC: Well, the first novel I ever wrote was started and completed in the summer of 2009 and it began as a supernatural, kind of time travel but not exactly type YA novel (and oddly enough it included characters named Jackson and Holly—my Tempest series leads) and then it evolved into Holly rediscovering her gymnastics potential and pursuing high-level competition. So basically it was Tempest combined with Letters to Nowhere. Oh, and Jackson in that book was part alien (no aliens in the Tempest series). I learned very quickly that just because you love two things doesn’t mean you should put them together. For example, my two favorite foods:

Snow crab legs + Cheese cake = Gross! 
Aliens + Gymnastics = no

But sometimes it works…
Peanut butter + Chocolate = Yum!
YA literature + Elite Gymnastics = My dream book to write. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. (:

My Review

I absolutely adored this book. No, it is not a light-hearted read. The story-line revolves around some very serious topics and had my heart aching a little bit at one time or another. But everything in it- the characters, their dialogue and their actions rang true to me. I can honestly say that I loved almost every single one of the characters in this book. 

The book follows Karen as she tries to come to terms with her grief over losing her loving parents, and trying to remain focused on her future. That is so much for a seventeen year old to take on, but Karen is incredible. So much is thrown at her and she has so many questions about death and even life. What really grabbed me was how all the emotions she went through and the questions she asked were genuine to people who lose their parents. They ask those same questions and they have those same emotions and it just felt so real to me. 

Karen- I also love how she was honest with herself about what she was feeling, even if she was not being honest with everyone around her. She had to go through so much and I just wanted to answer all her questions and take all her pain away. I like her more than I like most of the troubled girls I have read in contemporary books of late. She was very genuine. 

Jordan- I may or may not get the warm fuzzies every time I think of Jordan. He was just such a pivotal character going through his own grief. I love how he was honest as well, but still awkward and adorable- not at all a larger than life, perfect male lead. I love how the romance between the two characters progresses throughout the book. It is sweet and honest and makes me want to smile just thinking about it. 

While the book may be centered around Karen's loss of her parents and her grief, I love how there is so much MORE to the book than that. It is about the relationships Karen has with all the rest of the characters in the book-  between teammates, best friends, coaches, her growing relationship with Jordan, Karen's past with her family, and even Karen's relationship with gymnastics. I love how dynamic all of the relationships between Karen and the supporting characters were. Even if her and a certain character did not see eye to eye at a certain point, I still loved their interactions because that is what all real friendships are. I was just so sucked in! I can honestly say I loved everyone.....except Nina Jones. *makes face* Not her. 

Also, throughout, all those characters and all the events that took place in the book, everything just flowed. It was nice not be be stuck or confused by anything. 

My favorite part , however, was the letters Karen wrote to the other characters in the book. They were so heart- felt and like I mentioned before- honest. I loved the ones she wrote to her parents. Those letters just made me feel too much. I was an emotional mess at that part. But I loved every single minute of it. 


“So you were a little British boy.” I smiled at the thought. “Did you have an accent?”

“I did. It’s so weird to hear myself talk on videos.” His face turned serious again and I could sense his need to change the subject.

“So . . . that’s the story behind the dorm disease phobia,” I said.

“Yep.” He smiled. “I’m just glad you don’t have meningitis.”

I laughed. “Yeah, ’cause then you’d have it too.”

“That’s not the only reason I’m glad.” He lifted his gaze again, looking right at me. “What were you dreaming about the other night when Dad woke you up?”

I covered my face with my hands. “God, that was awful. Did I scream really loud? In my dream I was screaming and it felt so . . . real.”

“Loud enough to wake my dad up from downstairs.”

I squeezed my eyes shut. “In the dream it wasn’t them . . . I mean I know it wasn’t my parents, but it didn’t sound like them either. We were in the car and they kept saying, don’t you want to come with us, Karen, we’re a family, we should do this together. And I didn’t want to. I wanted out of that car so bad I couldn’t even think about my mom or my dad or what was about to happen to them. I jumped out.” For some reason I felt guilty for having this subconscious reaction and a tiny part of me worried what Jordan would think.

Jordan took a deep breath and I felt him slide a little closer. “I used to have nightmares like that too. I saw the explosion in so many different ways, things you couldn’t even imagine. Stuff I would be too scared to ever say out loud. Dad used to have to wake me up like he did with you. But I always made up something, told him I dreamt that I went to school naked or got locked out of the house in the winter.”
 “How do I make it stop?” I asked him, desperate to keep a nightmare sequel from happening.

“You tell me about it,” he said, frankly. “Every time. Give me all the worst details and then your mind won’t have this horrible stuff buried that’s only allowed to come out when you’re unconscious.”

That was when I remembered what he said the other night, about not having anything to offer anyone, except me. He gets it. He gets me. And then my hand was under his blanket, fumbling around for his. The gesture was completely friendly, but the electric shock that surged through my weak and barely functioning body was anything but friendly.


“Huh?” His eyes had drifted shut again and he tried and failed to pull them open.

“I’m sorry you’re sick.”

A smile spread across his sleepy face and he squeezed my hand. “I’m not.”


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