Monday, February 6, 2012

an interview with kristen simmons, + giveaway of awesome!

Friends, friends, friends. Remember last week when my friend's book came out? Well.

Do I have a treat for you! First, a little background: 

I met Kristen Simmons several years ago in my hometown of Louisville, KY, where she and my mom were Jazzercise instructors together. {Don't knock it till you try it, for reals.}

My mom always had a new Kristen story, and she told me over and over again how much I would love her, which was, of course, so true.

Kristen and I first bonded over the atrocities of the last few seasons of LOST, and neither of us knew the other one wrote. Well, in all honesty, I was only just starting to get serious about it {there wasn't much to know}, but I had NO EARTHLY CLUE that she was writing.
Then, one day, my mom called me and said,"So, guess what? ...Kristen got a book deal!"
And I said,  "Kristen who? Kristen, Kristen?"

And she was like, "Yes, Kristen Simmons!"

Who knew?!

So then Kristen and I bonded over writing, which, it turns out, is a much more enjoyable topic than the last few seasons of LOST. 

She has been a great friend and mentor, full of laughter and words of wisdom and encouragement, and I am SO THRILLED AND HONORED to share this interview with her. Thank you, Kristen, for letting me ask you so many questions. :)

From Article 5's Goodreads page:

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. 

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.

And now, here's Kristen!

she's so pretty!
1. About the places: Did you spend more time consulting physical maps or Google? Just out of curiosity. {By the way, I will never look at a vacant Dick's parking lot the same, again.}
Both actually! Sometimes I would google an area and access that spooky Big-Brother-Watches-All feature where you can get a 360 degree view of a certain street or a certain shop. Other times I tracked Ember's journey on a physical map I had tacked up on my wall. I spent a lot of time counting miles on Mapquest (to figure out how long it would take them to get certain places), and figuring out back roads that would detour them from the FBR. Like, a lot of time. I am really bad at both math and spatial relationships.
2. When in the process did your title emerge?
Right at the beginning. The idea of Moral Statutes manifested first, and then the title fell into place. I have not had the same luck since. The sequel is still unnamed...

3. What makes A5 unlike many dystopians {something I loved about this book}?
I think it's atypical mostly because the setting and time are so close to the present. Ember and Chase have no access to special technologies, there are no laser weapons or super computers. In fact, because of the War (which is reflected on little in Book 1 due to the nature of their necessary flight) there are actually less scientific advancements available than before. The divide between those in power and those without is so wide that few can afford to attend to anything besides their basic needs - safety, food, shelter, etc. Also, there's a strong relationship component, but it's not an easy relationship, it's a struggle. 

4. Did you expect Chase's red plaid shirt to be immortalized on the cover? 

No I didn't, but the first time I saw it I was overcome with joy and screamed: "THEY PUT HIS SHIRT ON THE COVER!" I love that it's there. Whenever I picture Chase, he's wearing that flannel.

4a. What was it like seeing your characters there for the first time?

I love them. I think the art team nailed them. And I love that they're looking away, so that you can still decide what their faces look like for yourself.

5. What's something not many people know about Kristen Simmons that you actually wish they did know?

Let's see...I really wish that people knew that I have a fairly life-interfering watermelon addiction. It's a problem. It's expensive to buy a watermelon every other day, especially in the winter. And you run the risk of it being mushy, or not sweet. I hope people learn from my struggles, and strive to live a life of varied fruit consumption.

{Oh, how I love you. Haha.}

6. Please discuss your favorite types and flavors of frozen treats {I know you want to}.

Frozen treats. Oh, pumpkin ice cream, how I love thee. Also strawberry milkshakes. Also banana ice cream from Marble Slab, when they mix in fresh strawberries. Also frozen kit kats. Have you ever frozen a kit kat Julie? It's delightful. Also frozen chocolate covered bananas.

{I have had frozen kit kats, believe it or not. That's how they always came at summer camp. I ate far too many. Also, THERE'S ALWAYS MONEY IN THE BANANA STAND. Is what frozen chocolate covered bananas will forever make me think of.}

7. Last movie you saw in theaters?

Sherlock Holmes! (I am embarrassed to admit that we have been back to the theater twice, but that I have gotten the movie times wrong and so we've left.)

7a. Worth it?
Yes! It was awesome! I love Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law together. They make me giggle.

8. What's something you absolutely love about Tampa?

I want to say the water - it's so awesome being close to the ocean - but honestly, I really love the rain storms here. They don't last long, but when they come you pretty much have to stop everything and pay attention to them. It rains harder here than anywhere I've lived, and there are the most fantastic lightning storms. It's completely consuming.

{Um, yeah. I feel like I would love that, too.}

9. What's the number one thing you miss about Louisville?

My friends! And the restaurants. I never knew this before we lived in Louisville, but that place has the best food.

{Oh my gosh, that is so true. I didn't realize it until I moved away!}

10. Can you introduce us to Rudy? Baw, Rudy.

What, you mean this precious creature?

Rudy came to us as a rescue from the track, all beaten up and anxious. Greyhounds don't have the knowledge that other dogs do when you get them under these circumstances, so for the first six months we had to carry his little 80 pound self up and down stairs (he didn't know what to do), and teach him it was okay to be pet, and water down his food so he didn't inhale it. Now he's a cuddler and he loves his squeaky toys. He probably deserves co-authorship of Article 5 as he truly is a divine muse, but I refuse to give it to him as he is also a huge distraction.

11. What does your handwriting look like?
It's terrible! A combination of cursive and print.

 I cannot be confined by font size or straight lines either. Learning to type was really a good thing. 

12. So, uh... will you hang out with me and have the best day ever on March 7, at Union Ave Books in Knoxville?
I thought you'd never ask...


Thank you again, Kristen!

And now, how could I *not* follow up with a giveaway?

Leave a comment with your email address, and I'll enter you in a drawing for a signed copy of Article 5. Whoo! Open until March 5, winners announced March 6, books signed March 7, and {Lord willing, since I'm usually bad at this} sent out on March 8. Or 9. Open internationally!

Thanks friend, and don't forget to spread the word.



  1. Her picture and answers are adorable (in the very best sense of the word); I'd love to check out her book! Enter me in the giveaway. :-)

  2. She is pretty . . . and schmaart! Her book looks and sounds exciting. Put my name in the hat. I'd love to read it.

  3. Julie, you are so the coolest. Thank you!

  4. That was a fun interview! I'd love to win a copy of Article 5 =)

    BornBookish [at] gmail [dot] com

  5. Hi Julie,
    Nice Blog, Glad I found you:) I enjoyed your interview with Kristen Simmons and I love the pics too!!
    Of course, I love books, reading and growing my home library as well: llm96(AT)aol(DOT)com

  6. I loved the interveiw, so fun! Love the questions email is

  7. Great Interview! I laughed out loud at the Arrested Development reference while I was in the library >.< But it was worth it!


  8. You're very lucky to have Kristen as friend. She sounds like a great person.
    I found you through the Campaigner sign up.
    Great interview by the way.


  9. I've been waiting with baited breath for Article 5. There's just so much buzz I know it's going to be a big hit. Please enter my name for the chance to win a signed copy. Thanks for hosting this event.

  10. I wanna enter... fairbetty(at)gmail(dot)com

  11. I'm looking forward to this book. A good one! :) love the cover.
    I want this one! here's my email: :)

  12. This book sounds absolutely brilliant, and that is one gorgeous dog :-)

  13. I just read the blurb on this book on Goodreads - so cool!!!! Yay for your friend! I even noticed the red shirt and wondered what the significance of it was.

  14. Uh, yes please. There is so much I love about this interview! Life-interfering watermelon addictions, money in the banana stand, Rudy. In short, best interview ever. I can't wait to read Kristen's book!

    (If you need my email address, just email me, haha)

  15. This was a fun interview, and I love your secret-writer friendship story. Article 5 sounds like it's right up my dystopian alley, so thanks for the chance to win it!

    writingonalimb [at] gmail

  16. ARTICLE FIVE sounds like an awesome book. I'd love a copy! and fun interview. I actually ever read interviews, but I read this one. Her dog is so cute!, yo!

  17. Oh wow I've had a hard time finding giveaways of this book - and I LOVE seeing the author finally!

    Came over from the Campaign - can I interest you in turning off word verification? Top 3 Things Well-Meaning Bloggers Do That Drive Readers Nuts

    sophiathewriter at gmail

  18. Now I'm wondering if I know anyone who writes secretly...

    This is a great giveaway. Found it through the Campaigner Noticeboard. :)


  19. Here from Rach's Campaign noticeboard....the book sounds very interesting and I am in love with the cover...the sepia-greyscale shades with just a dash of colour is a rare, enticing sight. Nice meeting you both...and the watermelon addiction can be a good way to lose/maintain weight. :)


  20. I came for the campaign because I'm in you mg/ya group. Now I'm drooling over a book. Count me in for your contest. Email: Sherahart at gmail dot com.

    Hope to see you soon at my blog. I need more opinions on my next to last post, my new book intro. As in, could I skip the 2nd paragraph and not lose the adult readers when they get to that part?

  21. I came from the campaign too, just to check out the blog. Enter me to win, the book sounds awesome! buffisan(at)


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