I am super excited to welcome and a very special friend and author to my blog today. On her book release blog tour for her debut YA, Killer Potential, I am hosting the gorgeous Aften Brook Szymanski!
So, without delay here are the all important details!
Back Cover Blurb
Seventeen-year- old Yvette Gibbs was just admitted to the hospital psych unit in handcuffs as the main suspect in a murder case, which she refuses to talk about.
Drugs and depression claim her family—leaving Yvette to fight her own demons alone. Adopting the skill of master of passive-aggressive vengeance lands Yvette in the psych unit with no family support, unless she cooperates with her therapist to clear her name, also a convicted murderer.
Yvette wants revenge on the world that taught her to be afraid, claimed her mother to depression, hid her
father in a fog of job hopping, turned her brother to dealing drugs, and swallowed her sister whole, but to
achieve this she must lie, manipulate, and most of all survive. Pitting her dead sister’s shady friend whom
she fears against the man who reminded her she’s not immune to victimization, is her perfect solution to
all life's hassles, even if that means she ends up with blood on her hands. Until everything backfires.
About the Author
Aften Brook Szymanski, at the age of five, once fell on her bum looking out a large picture window while
eating a pickle and people laughed. She thought she was funny, life has never been the same. She’s obsessed with LEGOs, cozy reading nooks, and over-the- knee socks. A graduate of the College of Southern Idaho with an Associate of Arts degree, Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science degree, and the University of Utah with a Master of Education degree. Learning is more fun than testing, sometimes we have to endure both.
She lives in a very cold Wyoming valley with her husband, three kids, and one unhappy cat, where they are being cryogenically preserved for all time—thanks to how cold it is.
Find Aften Online
Author page on FB
Where to Find Killer Potential
Congratulations and thanks for popping by my blog!
Killer Potential is a very dark and, I expect for some, disturbing story that really gets into one’s psyche. How much of the book is based on real experiences, if any, and how much is fictional? Was Yvette based on you or anyone you know?
The beginning construct was based on emotional metabolism. It sounds lame, I know. The story grew from the idea that the emotions we’re surrounded by are broken down in our internal emotional compass and become our barometer for reactions to emotional stimulus to come. I struggle with high anxiety. I have for a long time, which made growing up difficult. I was afraid of everything. I wondered what would happen if a person, who grows up surrounded by outside fear (or those she doesn’t herself experience, but perceives based on events surrounding her life) reacted to her own life situations to the same degree as the fear she imagines from exposure to other people’s fears. Then to really irritate the main character, I based the family around other personal traits I struggle with, so that I could isolate and emphasize specific struggles with individual family member interactions.
So in the case of Yvette, she chose to absorb and dwell on a lot of negativity and in turn had destructive energy to give off when she did take action.
Have you always written dark and powerful, or is there any light and quiet books in you too?
I actually prefer humorous stories. I think allowing myself to write from a place of honestly exploring personal traits that I struggle with made this book more intense. I write a lot of light and quiet books, they haven’t been picked up by publishers yet. ;)
How long did this book take from conception to book shelves? Was it an easy book to write, or did it take a lot of energy to turn into words?
It was easy to write, which is surprising. However, revision took me forever. Originally the story was in two parts with the anabolic phase first followed by the catabolic phase. The timeline was later chopped up with past and present being the different phases. It also made the story development much more engaging having the two timelines intertwined.
Can you tell me anything about your revising/editing process? Did you use beta readers, critique partners, etc?
I used beta readers, critique partners, mentors, writing group members. This story was revised more than anything I’ve ever worked on. And I think that level of intense scrutiny made it better. I get tired just thinking about how many times this story was revised. It was in past tense third person POV for seven drafts—that switch hurt my brain.
Is there a book 2, or is this a standalone novel?
Not that I’m aware of. I’m not ruling it out. Poor Yvette might need a break from making decisions for a while though.
Can you tell me anything about your current WIP?
I’m two thirds through another thriller. I’m a little worried how it will be received though. I’ve written two novels between KP and the WIP I’m working on now, with the current WIP being very bold and, if not handled correctly and revised with great care, could be a total disaster. The overreaching emotional target I’m aiming for is the ability to trust one’s intuition and factors that rob a person of self-trust, as well as how that can impact a community.
This one has been more difficult for me, and has not come easy. The two novels between the current work came quickly and I hope will be picked up soon, but this work might take me a little longer than my norm.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Or where would you like to be in 5 years?
Writing. Of course I’d like to have good sales, maybe go on an awesome book tour, and have people relate to my writing. More than anything, I hope to let readers know that flawed characters are worthy of stories about them. Just like flawed humans are worthy of our time and affection. I’m not much of a ‘happily ever after’ writer. I like grit and hilarity and rawness. In five years I hope to have several more books published and my house to be out of the renovation phase.
Thank you so much for the insight and for popping by today, Aften. I wish you masses of luck with Killer Potential, as one of the lucky early readers you know how much I LOVE this book.
So yeah, readers, don't muck about. Go buy, read and then review this book NOW! It's freaking awesome.
WHY SUB TO ME?
I am part angel, perfection in every sense, and I will guard your words with the pure light of love.
And, this takes me nicely to an announcement... this year's team name is... wait for it... have you guessed it yet?... Yep, that's right... TEAM ANGEL! Quite fitting, don't you think?
On top of this, I'm a professional developmental editor, the editorial director at Lakewater Press, and an award-winning MG author. I've been mentoring authors, both debut and published, for a number of years now, and I like to think quite successfully!
Amongst my successful clients is my now friend J.S. Roberts. This gorgeous young specimen was my Pitch Wars mentee in 2015, and her book, the wicked MG mystery Delayed, was snapped up earlier this year by fabulous agentSara Crowe! Oh, and look! She's popped by to say a few words about me!
'If you have a middle grade manuscript, you owe it to your career to choose my amazing mentor, Kate Foster! (Yes, I still call her mine. She still gives me great advice!) Here’s what Kate did for me during Pitch Wars: She taught me what revision really is. Hint: it’s not changing a few words around and adding occasional small scenes. She showed me how to bring my characters to life. She read and re-read my manuscript until it gleamed! And she helped me create an amazing pitch.
'Here's what Kate did for me after Pitch Wars was over: She stayed with me. She helped me with my query and synopsis. She checked in with me regularly and encouraged me not to lose hope. She offered to help me with more revisions. She gave great advice when my agent SARA CROWE scheduled THE CALL. She cheered and announced on Twitter when I signed my contract. And only a month ago, when my agent suggested super major revisions, Kate helped me get my head in the right place to actually make it work. Then she read the whole manuscript again. I’m so thankful Kate liked my manuscript enough to give it a chance!'
Thank you, BFF!
So also, I am a mother of three boys, a wife and a dog-lover. I'm English, but live in Australia, and I don't do much else other than play with words; sometimes my own, but mainly other people's. I love the sunshine, my bed, and eating – particularly cake.
MY PITCH WARS WISHLIST!
Everything. All the awesomeness. Just go ahead and fill up my inbox with scrumptious literary cookies!
How's that? Does that help?
Mmmm, I guess not. OK, so I probably need to be more specific. But, in truth, I am definitely one of those readers who devours books in most genres, most settings, and for most age groups. Quite honestly, I never know what book I'm going to fall for until I'm... erm... falling for it.
So, forcing my heart's soppy and painful need to love all the stories at once out of the equation, there are two elements that run through most of the books that make my worship, take-to-bed, smoochy, lets-go-for-dinner list.
Detailed, well-defined, flawed characters
A dark undercurrent
To run into a little more detail of both so maybe you can see if you fit my wishlist...
Characters drive a story for me. Of course plot is important, but if your characters are weak, or you haven't put any time into getting to know them, I'll notice and get frustrated. I know, I'm that shallow. I will work on characterisation with my mentee, of course, it's my speciality, but I need to get swept up in the characters' personal stories from the first page or I'm out. My opinion is, that if you put the effort into building and knowing your characters better than your closest friend or partner, then it will strengthen both your voice and the engaging quality of your writing.
Yeah, I love dark, creepy, eerie, what's-in-the-shadows, we're-all-gonna-die, that-person-is-following-me, is-there-someone-in-my-house stories. I do. Not necessarily in-your-face horror with axe-wielding maniacs leaping out of mirrors chopping people's limbs off and drilling into brains – although I like a bit of that too! – but more a dark, haunting, sinister undertone that makes me shiver and unable to sleep, makes me over-think, makes me wonder what I would do if this happened to me. That 'Could this happen in real life?' question. Scare and thrill me at the same time, and do your best to keep me up at night. I will love you for it!
Some other pointers:
And that's it. I hope this helps. Fundamentally, I just want stories that I can drool over, so if you've written one, send it to me NOW!
If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave a comment below. I will answer!
Good luck, everyone, I look forward to reading your work.
Check out all the other MG mentors right here. Though all amazing, none are as amazing as me. Just sayin'.