A dual POV friends-to-first-love story, Just Shelby is an unsuspecting mystery that depicts how growing together can sometimes hurt worse than growing apart.
Brooklyn James is an author/singer-songwriter who savors any opportunity to blend books with music. Her first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, has an original music soundtrack and was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter Finalist.
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Just Shelby Synopsis:
A secret note square found in a handmade guitar proves that small town gossip is not only ubiquitous but occasionally true. This gossip comes with strings rivaling those on Ace Cooper’s guitar, the safest strings he will ever have around his heart.
Ace’s father warns him to stay away from the Lynn girl. Daughter of a deceased bootlegger and a barely living addict, Shelby Lynn is no stranger to small town contempt. She keeps her nose in the books and feet to the ground, a college scholarship the only escape from her tumultuous life.
As Ace’s heartstrings unravel, so does his family’s role in Shelby’s broken past. Thrust into a precarious journey of their roots brimming with music and betrayal, the two have never been closer…to the truth of how Shelby’s father died. One truth transforms every facet of their lives forever.
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What are the challenges of writing in the Young Adult genre?
One of the most challenging aspects of writing Just Shelby was thinking like a teen without trying to think like a teen! Writing Shelby’s character was quite natural in that her homelife experience didn’t really allow her to fully navigate as a teen. She went from ten to twenty overnight. Losing her father at a young age coupled with her mother’s addiction, Shelby grew up fast. Personally growing up in a highly dysfunctional childhood home, I knew immediately who Shelby was. And keep in mind that “growing up fast” does not equate to being “grown-up,” this I know all too well. So when the culmination of my life experience as an adult would start to lead my pen in a direction that had more awareness behind it than what I had when I was eighteen, I would back it up and think like that eighteen-year-old who may have grown up fast but still had a boatload of life to experience. The thing I love most about writing YA is the freedom to explore endings that are uplifting and inspiring without being quintessential happy-ever-after endings. Something that I have run into before in writing Adult Romance is that there seems to be a lot of pressure to go in the happily ever after direction where love is the be-all and end-all. The majority of Young Adult books I have read, and the ones I enjoy most, leave the reader with a clear sense of who the characters are and how they have transformed, but love is merely a part of that transformation and not the journey itself.
Which coming-of-age books were your favorites growing up?
Still drawn to the underdog archetype in my adult reading, growing up I thoroughly enjoyed The Outsiders and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I also easily identified with “tomboys” — complex female characters who persevered in identifying themselves outside the traditional confines of love and marriage. Little Women left a lasting impression on me, specifically with Louisa May Alcott’s portrayal of Jo. As a junior taking American Lit, I found two of my all-time favorite books in To Kill a Mockingbird and Wuthering Heights, which remain on my bookshelf to this day.
Were the main characters inspired by a real-life event?
My first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, was a true-life story. Just Shelby was dubbed a “junior Boots” by one beta reader, even though Just Shelby is not a true-life story. As a writer, life experience always weave its way into my books. Ace’s love of music stems from my own love of music as an indie singer-songwriter. This may have been the first book I’ve written where I identified as much with the male character as with the female character, largely in part due to Ace’s music aspirations and his strained relationship with his father. Shelby relies on her legs as a runner, holding out hope for a college scholarship, much the same as I did in high school. The scenes where she works as a waitress at Hot Brown were inspired by my own first job as a waitress in a small-town diner, saving up money for college. Ultimately Shelby’s desire to spread her wings and fly on out of Appalachia was influenced by my own adolescent aspiration. And the first love theme that the main characters experience is universally a real-life event for all of us.
Why did you choose to write from a dual point-of-view?
I found myself in a reading slump a while back, looking for something different than what I was accustomed to reading. This slump led me to several YA books written in dual points of view, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park to name one. I was instantly hooked! Even though there is something endearing about getting to know a character through another’s eyes as with single POV, receiving the narration from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, in each perspective was refreshing and insightful. It feels more genuine because each character comes through in their own POV rather than simply being depicted in another’s POV. Alternating points of view seems to offer an innate pacing that is difficult to establish with single POV as well. It’s this nice little tradeoff that mirrors real life in a way, as no one story is neither experienced nor told by a single individual. In retrospect, I believe I was also in a writing slump. The idea of writing a dual POV novel seemed both challenging and thrilling, and it was. One of the most thrilling and challenging aspects of dual POV in Just Shelby was staying true to Ace’s POV. Being a bit of a tomboy myself, growing up in a neighborhood where boys outnumbered girls 2:1, and having a son of my own, I felt quite confident approaching Ace’s POV. However, much like thinking like a teen without trying to think like a teen, there were multiple times I had to backup my pen and revise in order to be true to his POV. I surmise there is no greater red-flag than experiencing a male POV that is written as a female would wish for it to be written. Ace’s POV couldn’t represent wishes. What the eighteen-year-old girl in me may have wished an eighteen-year-old boy would have thought about her or would have said to her had no place in his POV.
Unique challenges of a virtual tour?
I am very much a people person. There is nothing like meeting readers at a book signing, learning about them, their lives, what books they are reading, and expressing my gratitude that they have taken the time to purchase and give my book a chance. Therefore not being able to meet readers face-to-face poses the greatest challenge of a virtual book tour for me. In the time of covid, virtual events have become the norm, which is better than no events at all! I do appreciate the convenience factor of virtual book tours where I may be able to gain the interest of readers who may have otherwise not been able to attend a brick-and-mortar signing either because of schedule conflict or simply due to its location miles from their hometown. Even before covid, virtual book tours have been an integral part of sharing new releases with readers. It was actually through the merits of book bloggers that my first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, was given life. I knew nothing about book bloggers and virtual tours at the time, but they found my book, resulting in many others finding it…and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you, Donna, for this amazing opportunity to reach your readers!
Just Shelby Links:
Brooklyn James is an author/singer-songwriter who savors any opportunity to blend books with music. Her first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, has an original music soundtrack, making for a unique Audible experience. Out of Boots grew a platform where it was Brooklyn’s honor to serve as a guest speaker with a focus on awareness and prevention of domestic violence and suicide.
Her latest speaking engagements centered around accessibility, rights, and choice in birth, as well as writing workshops on how to put pen to paper composing one’s own birth story with the release of her birth memoir, Born in the Bed You Were Made: One Family’s Journey from Cesarean to Home Birth.
Just Shelby gifted both the challenge and the thrill of this author’s primary exploration into the Young Adult genre. She cherishes reader reviews, if you should be so inclined.
Moonlighting occasionally in voice-over and film, Brooklyn played a Paramedic in a Weezer video, met Harry Connick Jr. as an extra on the set of When Angels Sing, appeared in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood for all of a nanosecond, and was a stand-in and stunt double for Mira Sorvino on Jerry Bruckheimer’s Trooper pilot for TNT. Although reading, dancing, working out, and a good glass of kombucha get her pretty excited, she finds most thrilling the privilege of being a mother to two illuminating little souls and a wife to the one big soul from whom they get their light.
Brooklyn holds an M.A. in Communication, a B.S. in both Nursing and Animal Science, and lives in Texas Hill Country.
Brooklyn Social Media Links:
A secret note square found in a handmade guitar proves that small town gossip is not only ubiquitous but occasionally…