Queen of Likes
by Hillary Homzie
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GENRE: middle grade / tween contemporary fiction
Like everyone at Merton Middle School, Karma Cooper’s smartphone is almost another body part. She’s obsessed with her LIKES on Snappypic. When her parents shut down her social media account and take away her smartphone, Karma’s whole world crumbles. She has to figure out what she actually likes and how to live life fully unplugged. This book will jumpstart conversations about how social media is changing the ways tweens are growing up.
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A song, QUEEN OF LIKES, was written just for the book. It’s a wonderful song.
Click here to listen!
“So we’re come up with a new punishment,” says Dad. “Something that will get your attention.”
Dad looks at Mom and Mom looks at Dad and I can tell that they are a united front against me. “We’re going to close your Snappypic account,” states Dad.
“What?” My stomach dips as if I’ve just dropped from highest part of a roller coaster. I want to flop against the nearest car in the parking lot. “You can’t do that. It’s my account. It’s private. You can’t.” Every day, I get smiley faces and hearts and balloons and LIKES. All of the time. Waking up and not being able to se what my followers are up to? Being totally cut off like that? My parents might as well send me to Antarctica because I’m going to be frozen out of everything. “This must be some kind of hallucination,” I say. “The parents I know would never do this to me!”
“Karma, I’m sorry,” says Mom. “But I think you are over-reacting. You knew the rules.”
“Please.” I clasp my hands together. “Please, please. Please. I’ll do anything. I’ll babysit Toby as much as you want. I’ll clean the house every single day. I’ll make dinner I’ll—”
“It’s a final decision,” says Dad.
“But I’m like… a professional. I have more followers than some companies.”
“Exactly our point, Karma,” says Mom. “You’re not a company. You’re our daughter and still a kid. And I don’t really love this obsession of yours.”
The parking lot is practically spinning. “You just don’t want me to grow up!”
I fling up my arms. “Please,” I beg. “Don’t do this.”
It is my pleasure to welcome Hillary Homzie, author of Queen of Likes, to Room With Books!
Please tell us about yourself, Hillary.
I write entertaining books for tween girls that reflect their everyday concerns, especially when it comes to friendship squabbles. My books are fast-paced and funny but definitely each one has a takeaway.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but along the way I also wanted to be a sketch comedian (which I did in NYC in my twenties for a few years).
How long have you been writing and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing novels for about 25 years! Wow! I was inspired to write because making up stories just makes me happy! As a kid, my favorite activity was storytelling with my Barbies, paper dolls and during let’s pretend games.
Do you have a job in addition to writing and would you tell us more about it?
I teach children’s writing at Hollins University in their summer graduate program in children’s writing and literature (in addition, they have an illustration program). This is an amazing program where students spend six weeks immersed in children’s literature and writing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Hollins is beautiful—there’s even a horse farm right on campus. It has incredible legacy of producing of children’s book authors. Margaret Wise Brown of Goodnight Moon fame graduated from Hollins. I also teach online, interactive writing classes at the Children’s Book Academy, which is fabulous nurturing community.
How would you summarize this book in less than 20 words?
A tween girl addicted to social media must learn to thrive without her phone when her parents take it away.
Now, let’s talk about writing and how you came to be a published author.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I first considered myself a writer when my second grade teacher, Mrs. McCrone, said I was a writer. She was such an amazing teacher! I first became published author when I wrote a short story about learning how to pitch a baseball. It made into a baseball literary journal, Fan, and then it was anthologized in a book about baseball called Mudville Diaries!
How long did it take to get your first book published?
Um, it was pretty fast. Maybe a year. I pitched an idea for a chapter book to an editor at Simon & Schuster. He loved my voice but didn’t think that book was quite right for his list so we ended up working on another idea together, which became Alien Clones From Outer Space, my chapter book series.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to “The End”?
Depends on the project. I’ve written chapter books in a matter of months but typically my middle grades take about two years.
What can we expect from you in the future? More of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
More middle grade and also some contemporary chapter books, for sure. Although I’m working on an upper middle grade that’s science fantasy right now!
Who is your favorite character from your books and why are they your favorite?
I love Karma Cooper from Queen of Likes. She just wants a lot of likes on social media because she’s looking for affirmation and I can relate!
What is your routine for writing?
The morning is all about dealing with my kids: breakfasts, making lunches, the clean-up of morning madness, then I take a walk and around 9:30 ish I settle into write. I probably write for an hour or so and then often do a check-in with my critique partner. Lunch. Then more writing. Then attending to some administrative stuff. Then the afternoon is all about carpooling my kids around!
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Hmm, great question. The concept usually comes to me first so title/concept first—yup!
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books?
In Things Are Gonna Get Ugly (MIX/Simon & Schuster), I want girls to think about how it’s cool to be smart, in The Hot List, I hope girls will see that it’s okay for your friends to widen their circle of friends and in my newest book Queen of Likes, I want girls to see that when they post on social media, it’s important to post what you like versus what you think others will like. Posting should not be about validation.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
Paperback. I just love the feel of the paper. But eBooks are great for the convenience!
What is your favorite book and why is it your favorite? How many times would you estimate you’ve read it?
Pride and Prejudice because it’s funny, romantic and I love the social satire. I’ve read it a half-dozen times, maybe.
Do you read all the reviews of your books?
That’s enough of the serious business. How about a handful of fun questions?
What is your favorite food? Popcorn
Who is your favorite singer or group? Secure the Sun
What is your favorite color? Teal blue
What is your ideal getaway dream vacation? Tropical near a beach with calm water
What final words would you offer to our readers?
Take care of yourself—when you’re feeling happy and healthy you can be more loving to those around you!
Thank you for spending time with us at Room With Books. I appreciate your time and wish you the best with your book. I hope you will come back again!
Thanks for interviewing me!
Hillary is the author of the tween novel, THE HOT LIST (Simon & Schuster/M!X) which Booklist says “captures the angst of young teen friendships and fragile identities.” She’s also the author of the middle grade novel, THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/M!X), a Justice Book-of-the-Month, which was just optioned by Priority Pictures, and the forthcoming QUEEN OF LIKES (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X, April 2016), which is about social media, as well as the humorous chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), a Children’s Book-of-the-Month Best Books for Children. Emmy-nominated Suppertime Entertainment developed the books to become an animated television series and it was sold to ABC Australia. Hillary’s young adult fiction has been published in TEEN MAGAZINE and anthologized (MUDDVILLE DIARIES, Avon Books). She has sold non-fiction and fiction projects to Klutz Press/Scholastic Books, The Learning Company and John Muir Books. With her frequent writing partner, Steven Arvanites, she has had film projects developed by Brooklyn Weaver’s Energy Entertainment. Hillary got her start performing and writing sketch comedy Off-Broadway, and was a Heideman Playwrighting Award Finalist. Hillary holds a master’s degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children’s literature and writing. Currently, she’s a visiting professor of children’s literature and writing at Hollins University.
Hillary Homzie will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.
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