I met Patty briefly at the delicious and fab Sourcebooks 25th Anniversary party at BEA in New York in June. (Yeah, I love typing stuff like that. You must always remember that I used to teach in a public high school where we did not, even on school anniversaries, have parties on a rooftop overlooking the Hudson with food stations, booze, cake pops and Kristie Yamaguchi signing her books. We had announcements that said 'Teachers! There are leftover kolaches from the PTA meeting in the lounge.' So every day I utter thankful prayers because even if I NEVER SOLD ANOTHER BOOK (not that I am tempting the fates with that!), I would still feel like I won the jackpot every damn day.)
But back to Patty -- SEND is her debut novel and it's a moving and wonderful contemporary YA that you should absolutely read. In fact she is GIVING AWAY A COPY to one lucky blog reader at the end of this post, so keep reading!
Here's Patty's bio:
Patty Blount writes instruction guides by day and novels by night. On a dare by her oldest son, she wrote her first novel in an ice rink. Though never published, Penalty Killer was the subject of so many seventh grade book reports, the English teacher requested a copy and later returned it, covered in red ink. Patty is always looking for great story ideas. Her debut novel, Send, was conceived after her boss suggested she learn about social networks. Patty lives on Long Island with her family, a fish, and lots of books.
And here is a description of SEND: (which you can purchase here)
It's been five years since I clicked Send. Four years since I got out of juvie. Three months since I changed my name. Two minutes since I met Julie. A second to change my life.
All Dan wants for his senior year is to be invisible. This is his last chance at a semi–normal life. Nobody here knows who he is. Or what he's done. But on his first day at school, instead of turning away like everyone else, Dan breaks up a fight. Because Dan knows what it's like to be terrorized by a bully—he used to be one.
Now the whole school thinks he's some kind of hero—except Julie. She looks at him like she knows he has a secret. Like she knows his name isn't really Daniel...
Yeah, I know. You read that and you totally have to get a copy, right?
I asked Patty what inspired her to write such a powerful story and discovered that Patty is not one to hold back, even on the tough stuff. Here's what she had to say:
A few years back, I was working on a series of medical romances. Book 1 was done and I was about twenty thousand words into book 2 when my day job boss directed us to incorporate social networks like Twitter and YouTube into our work. I had no idea what Twitter even was back then, so I did a ton of research and what I found scared me. People don’t always use these networks for good. Some use them for bullying – posting embarrassing pictures or nasty comments that go viral, enticing complete strangers to join in. This scared me because just a few years earlier, I nearly lost my son to suicide. He’d spent the entire school term ridiculed by classmates because he started puberty early. I had no idea he was suffering; I just blamed his sullen behavior on the hormones. It wasn’t until one night in April, seven months later, when he blurted out he no longer wanted to live.
He was in sixth grade.
The rest of the year passed in a blur. We got him help, we spoke to all his teachers and slowly, he started to heal.
He’s in college now, but there are scars.
So there I was in 2009, doing all this social networking research and all I could think was “Thank God we didn’t have to deal with this, too.” I’m sure I’d be telling you a very different story if my son’s bullying ordeal had left the classroom and gone viral. You’re probably thinking, “Ah. So this is where the idea for SEND came from.”
Not exactly. Dan, the main character in SEND, wasn’t ‘born’ until my son was in seventh grade. Just when I started to think everything was back to normal, I came home one day to find a very angry family at my door, accusing my son of bullying theirs. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t imagine how the same child in so much pain barely a year earlier could cause that pain in someone else. My son, to his credit, was devastated with guilt and that’s when a little voice in my mind started talking to me. “I did that.” Watching my son cope with his own guilt got me wondering – how would a kid who did something really terrible forgive himself? And the voice said, “I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”
I put aside my romance series and wrote the first draft of SEND. But I got it wrong. In this first draft, Dan was in his mid-twenties and working as a motivational speaker. An agent I queried suggested making it true YA, so I revised it, putting Dan back in high school. When I finished this version, a friend of mine who’s a school librarian asked if some of her students could critique it. I eagerly accepted and holy chocolate kisses, did they help me! These kids tore the book apart, highlighting what worked and what didn’t and even nailing me on the words no guy would ever use. In fact, they echoed what my own kids told me – more cursing! Teen boys curse. A lot.
Know what they hated the most? The happy ending I wrote.
So, I revised the book again, incorporating all of the teens’ feedback. All that research I did about Twitter served me well when I was ready to query this new manuscript. I made a lot of Twitter friends who helped me craft a solid query letter and invited me to join my local RWA chapter. I attended an agent and editor lunch the following year where I met a Sourcebooks editor who loved my pitch but still hated the ending. After ANOTHER revision, she loved the concept and offered me a two-book deal!
I am still tingling.
It’s important to note here that the friendships I forged on Twitter deepened and strengthened in the last year or so. I remember one night where my discouragement had reached a peak and I almost deleted the entire manuscript. A friend stopped me. Likewise, after my editor sent me her revision notes, panic almost crippled me again, but an author I greatly admire offered me the benefit of his own experiences. I’m quite certain that without these people in my corner, there’d never have been a book.
In preparing for the book’s launch, even more amazing things happened. An agent I met at another author’s reading invited me to participate on a young adult author panel with Nova Ren Suma and Dan Krokos. That was my very first writerly event ever! And my book trailer! Have you seen it? That was produced by an author who completely awes me. Oh, and then another agent ran a contest on her blog to help promote my book.
Yep, more tingling.
But the best moment of all these moments? The day a friend tweeted me that she saw SEND on her bookstore shelves, a week early. I went home, grabbed my husband and we headed out on a reconnaissance mission. The moment when I first spotted my book on a shelf with other books truly made it real for me – there are no words to describe it.
Scared the death out of four girls browsing the section.
How do you think SEND will affect teen readers?
Wow, Patty! All I can say is Wow! And how lucky we are, too, that you have brought this story into the world and that Sourcebooks knew it needed to be on shelves. (Patty's editor is the brilliant Aubrey Poole, btw, who is made of much awesome and works with my very own brilliant editor Leah Hultenschmidt in the New York office)
I also asked Patty a few lighter, but equally crucial questions:
Twizzlers or Kit Kats? Chocolate always goes first in my world, so Kit Kats. But I love Twizzlers.
Buffy or Edward? Edward! I am Team Edward through and through.
(*Note: I have chosen not to tell Patty that Buffy would totally kick Edward's ass.)
Zombies or Unicorns? I kinda like the zombie thing. Have you read BRAINS? Hilarious.
Gallery Girls or Honey Boo Boo or other trash reality TV? I don’t know what on earth a Honey Boo Boo is so can’t answer this, but I admit I have indulged in a few seasons of The Bachelor. But my latest indulgence? Staring at Gilles Marini on Dancing With the Stars. Here’s a little-known fact: The main character in that romance series I was writing back in 2007 - two years before I had ever heard of Gilles? TOTALLY HIM! Well, except my guy is British not French and has long hair.
(*Note: The Roecker sisters and I will now make it our goal to corrupt Patty's TV habits. Because we love it when others wallow with us. And btw, did anyone see that Chantal on GGirls is capable of crying? Who knew?)
Want to hang out more with Patty? Here's where you can find her:
@pattyblount on Twitter
Patty Blount on Facebook or SEND (THE NOVEL) Facebook Fan Page
And now for the giveaway!
WANT TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF SEND?
COMMENT ON THIS POST, AND SAY HI TO PATTY. (you can also follow her on Twitter if you like but that is not required, just appreciated. Please include the email where you can be reached.
All comments will be placed in the Contest Hat. (which since I am in a hurry this morning we will pretend is Rafflecopter which I was going to use but don't have time to set up right now) Contest is open through Sunday 9/23. Winner will be announced next week.