Friday, March 6, 2015

Jen Calonita Author Interview

Photo Content from Jen Calonita

Jen Calonita has interviewed everyone from Reese Witherspoon to Justin Timberlake, but the only person she’s ever wanted to trade places with is Disney’s Cinderella. When Jen isn’t plotting, she’s working on the sequel to FTRS in Merrick, New York, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and their Chihuahua named Captain Jack Sparrow. Visit Jen at

Grade Level: 5 - 8
Series: Fairy Tale Reform School (Book 1)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers (March 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 149260156X
ISBN-13: 978-1492601562

Praised for FLUNKED

"This enjoyable series launch creatively incorporates familiar fairy-tale characters and hallmarks-princesses, talking mirrors, spells, and magical beings, from fairies to ogres-along with an engaging and spirited protagonist, abundant plot turns, and witty touches. Overall,
there's much to amuse and entertain fans of classic tales with a twist." 

"Calonita blithely samples from fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and folklore in this lighthearted first book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series.... Recognizable fairy-tale characters abound (profiles of the school's instructors, like Xavier Wolfington, the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, appear throughout), and questions of whether goodness or badness run to the core of a person leave readers with plenty to consider." Publishers Weekly

"Gilly's plucky spirit and determination to oust the culprit will make Flunked a popular choice for tweens" School Library Journal

"Gilly hates the royals and blames them for her family's poverty. So robbing from the royals doesn't bother her at all. Unfortunately it's still a crime and lands her in Fairy Tale Reform School. But this school is not what she expected, and it just might make a hero of her yet. Fairy tale fans will love this clever and lively tale of magic, friendship, and courage. " Discovery Girls

"Flunked sounds incredibly innovative and appears to be turning the story of Cinderella's stepmother upside-down. I for one am dying to see the real reason behind Flora's reform school and what is really going down in Enchantasia." B&N Kids Blog

"A reform school where all the teachers are former villains. Kinda writes itself, right" SLJ Fuse 8

"Readers will recognize and enjoy the various fairy tales referenced here, as Calonita nods to movie adaptations as well as the original stories, and they'll enjoy her sly incorporation of social media to provide important background informa- tion and character sketches...this clever novel and its smart, endearing cast of characters will have readers enchanted and eager for the implied sequel(s). " Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"A spoof on folktales... would be enjoyed by students preferring fast-paced mysteries. Recommended
School Library Connection

Greatest Thing You Learned at School.
The more you read, the better you write. It took me a LONG time to realize this--I'm talking, after college and way into my writing career, but it's such a valuable lesson and I wish I'd listened to my teachers sooner. Every time I crack open a new book and see how a writer crafts a story, develops a new world, or creates a character I just want more and more of, I'm inspired. When I set out to write my first book, I read a lot of other young adult novels, but the series I loved the best was Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries. The way Mia spoke in her diary and connected with readers is something I wanted badly for my main character, Kaitlin Burke in Secrets of My Hollywood Life. Seeing how Meg Cabot could turn a phrase and make me laugh inspired me to take bigger leaps of faith with my own characters.

Defining Moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer.
I know exactly when this happened-- It was second grade and Steven Kellogg had illustrated a book that I still have--and carry around to school visits. Steven came and showed us how to illustrate books and what it was like to be an author and an illustrator. Then he autographed my book. I was so in awe that he had a book that he was signing for others! I knew then and there that I wanted to write. I wasn't sure what I'd write, but I knew I wanted to write something that would inspire others the way he had inspired me.

What fiction most influenced your childhood and what effect did those stories have on FLUNKED?
I grew up on a healthy dose of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books. The Super Fudge books made me belly laugh and it's so much fun for me to watch my own boys read those books now. I loved to read anything that made me smile. I was not a kid who loved doom and gloom or anything spooky! As I got older I gravitated towards the Sweet Valley High books. My mom used to go crazy because I'd read a book a day and then be begging to go back to the bookstore for more! Strangely, I didn't love traditional fairy tales as a kid. I loved the Disney movie versions, of course, but when I watched them, I always wondered what happened to some of the villains after the movie was over. I've always believed in second chances. That idea slowly formed FLUNKED.

What's the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
I'd say it's easier to start out writing what you know. For me, I was an entertainment magazine editor who spent my days interviewing teen stars. Watching them live their lives in front of a camera inspired me to create Kaitlin Burke and the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series.

Is there such a thing as a formula for storytelling?
My editor, Aubrey, gave me this amazing formula when I was editing FLUNKED. She called it the hero's journey and it included all the roller coaster steps a wannabe hero takes from the time they start their adventure to when they complete it. I use it for every book I work on now and am constantly asking myself one question: What does my character most want and what does my character most fear?

Greatest Adventure?
I'd have to say parenthood. I have always been such a girlie girl. I was sure I'd have my own little princesses, but I have two young pirates! I wasn't sure what to do with them at first, but I soon realized how much fun boys can be. We're always sword fighting or having lightsaber battles, downloading the latest Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer or talking about Jurassic World. I've learned how to cradle a lacrosse stick and kick a soccer ball and do things I never did as a girlie girl. They teach me so much every single day.

Would you send a villain to do a hero's job? An exciting new twisted fairy tale series from award-winning author Jen Calonita.

Full of regret, Cinderella's wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia.

Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she's not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its sweet mission. There's a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villian really change?
You can purchase Flunked at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JEN CALONITA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Flunked by Jen Calonita.


  1. I'd want to live in Australia or London.

  2. Great question. Probably somewhere on the Mediterranean, maybe Greece or Turkey. Thanks

  3. I'd live on the Sunshine Coast, QLD Australia.

  4. I'd want to live in Germany or Norway.

  5. I would live in London. That city is amazing!! :)