Monday, July 30, 2018

Guest Post with Justina Chen

Photo Content from Justina Chen

Storytelling runs in Justina Chen’s blood. After all, her middle name means illuminate, which is what story does: it throws light on a message.

Justina is an award-winning author of six books for young adults. Her forthcoming novel, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, will be available in Spring, 2018. Her most recent book, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS, is on a Booklist Top 10 list. NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL was named one of the Best Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews and was a finalist of 9 state book awards. And her debut novel, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (AND A FEW WHITE LIES), won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

In addition to being a writer, Justina is a story strategist to leaders and co-founder of Chen & Cragen, a boutique communications agency that transforms good executives into extraordinary leaders. Seen as a thought leader in communications, the Rockefeller Foundation invited Justina to be part of their twelve-person convening on storytelling for social good, along with CNN, BBC, NPR, and Google. Translation: she got to spend some quality time with amazing storytellers on the shores of Lake Bellagio.

A passionate advocate of literacy, Justina also co-founded readergirlz, a cutting-edge social media project for teens, which was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Prize for Innovations in Reading. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University where she won the Dean’s Award for Service.

Justina has lived in Sydney and Shanghai, but calls Seattle her home.


Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Inc. (July 31, 2018)
Publication Date: July 31, 2018
Sold by: Scholastic Trade Publisher
Language: English

Advance Praise for LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP

"A luminous read that will rekindle your faith in the indomitable human spirit and make you want to spend more time in starlight." ―Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook and Every Exquisite Thing

"Viola's story explores one of life's big questions: are we defined by our losses or will we allow them to lead us into an even more meaningful hero's journey? In Lovely, Dark, and Deep,Justina Chen has crafted an inspiring, romantic novel full of redemption and hope for teens and adults alike.” ―Mitali Perkins, author of You Bring the Distant Near

  • This book is my Valentine to my bestie and fellow author, Lorie Ann Grover. She is a role model of irrepressible joy even when her lupus-induced photosensitivity keeps her out of the sun.
  • Sudden and inexplicable photosensitivity is a real—if rare—condition. 
  • My son graduated this year from New York University Abu Dhabi, a four-year, degree-giving program. He inspired my heroine’s plan to attend that university.
  • My original life plan was to be a journalist (like Viola in the book!)—until a professor at Stanford told me I had no talent in writing. So I majored in economics instead. I must admit: I like being a novelist making up a world more than I would have liked being a journalist reporting about the world. Even so, I deeply revere our journalists who dare to find and tell the truth. 
  • My youngest stepdaughter is Mongolian, which is why Viola shares her heritage.
  • One of my eldest stepdaughter’s best friends is named Aminta, and their friendship is so special. I had to honor that in the book.
  • One of my traditions is to hold Souper Bowl Sundays after church in the winter. I love inviting people over for a bowl of soup and great conversation before everyone goes about their day. It’s the easiest way to host: casual, no fuss, pure warmth in every possible wonderful way.
  • One of my husband’s top five favorite songs is cited in the book—and I didn’t know that until after he read the manuscript! 
  • Everyone needs an Auntie Ruth in their life—and mine comes in the form of two beloved people. First, my mentor and friend, Meg Lippert. At the age of 70, she walked the hinterlands of England with me, averaging 16 miles a day. Isn’t that a life goal? And the second is my daughter who practices badassery in the best ways—from her sassitude to her incredible commitment to whatever she throws herself into heart and soul.
  • One of the most pivotal moments in my life happened on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Alaska to watch the aurora borealis. That’s when I knew that my heart was ready for a new adventure.
1. I almost retired from writing YA until this novel presented itself to me. The moment I heard Viola’s voice, her story and predicament gripped me. I had to write. 

2. The amazing book designer for this novel Elizabeth Parisi of Hunger Games fame. Cradling the finished book in my hands—admiring all the smart and beautiful details Elizabeth wove into the design—was a true career highlight for me. I have an Elizabeth Parisi book, people! 

3. The cover model’s eyebrows are something to behold. Seriously. Study them. Are them not perfection? 

4. The chapters I was saddest to cut were set in Iceland, but there was no plot-honoring way that I could logically and physically get Viola to the land of the Vikings. So instead, I had to reset the scenes to the Methow Valley in central Washington state, which, incidentally, was the locale of one of my other books, NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL

5. While my novel, RETURN TO ME, was a love letter to my children, this book is my apology to them. I am a helicopter mom: Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Do you hear me hovering? What I wanted them—and all teens who suffer from overprotective parents—is the desire to bubble wrap my kids comes from not wanting them to get hurt. But that is life. And watching them fly is a wonder to behold. So: we let go.

6. I had a very Auntie Ruth allergic reaction to dating for the longest time, but then I found love in an unexpected way at an unexpected time. So I’d love to write my first adult novel with Auntie Ruth as one of the characters. 

7. One of my pivotal scenes was written in Ada’s Technical Books in Seattle—as well as one of the pivotal moments in my private life. There I was, typing away when I started laughing out loud. That’s when my now-husband said, “I love to watch you write.” I knew he was my guy.

8. An interview with one of the leading crisis managers in the Pacific Northwest unlocked the parents. Who could be more overprotective as parents than crisis managers who know and see all kinds of disasters?

9. Working with my editors—first Cheryl Klein, then Nicholas Thomas—was essentially a master course on writing. I have learned so much about storytelling from these two.

10. This book is my Valentine to my bestie, Lorie Ann Grover whose lupus has made her allergic to the sun. 

What would you do if the sun became your enemy?

That's exactly what happens to Viola Li after she returns from a trip abroad and develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity -- an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn't just have to wear layers of clothes and a hat the size of a spaceship. She has to stay away from all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat when its screen burns her.

Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He's a funny, talented Thor look-alike who carries his own mysterious grief. But the intensity of their romance makes her take more and more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life -- and love -- as deep and lovely as her dreams.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen present readers to imagine that all of their normal daily activities have been altered. Such as the simplest things like going outside the house, walking down the street on a beautiful day, or even going out to check their mailbox. Most of us have probably never thought of losing these privileges. But for one Viola Li, a recent trip to Africa have hindered those day-to-day activities. While abroad, she developed an extreme case of photosensitivity. She is basically allergic to light. Not just sunlight, but also artificial lights such as the ones that emits from her smartphone’s screen. Her life is completed turned upside-down and living a normal life as senior in high school is now barred indefinitely.

Having to adjust her life to accommodate her recently changed anatomy, author Justina Chen takes her readers in the unknown and sheds light (so to speak) to a human condition that it is not familiarly known. Chen tells Viola’s struggle with denial and eventual self-acceptance in a most realistic way that many would follow if put in the same predicament. The impact in Viola’s relationships with friends and family has been greatly altered. The adjustments she must fine-tune to somewhat live a normal life are interesting and we are given scenarios that are not only fascinating, but also fun and hilarious.

Readers will appreciate the underlying messages in this story. Viola is an over-achieving teenager with big dreams who is ready to grasp that next milestone in her life. She is this irresistible force who is met with an immovable object. While her life literally goes from light to dark, there is also a story in that world that makes her appreciate it.

Justina Chen has brought a story that attracts mystery, interest, and appreciation. The character development of Viola felt like a realistic representation of someone that may go through a life-changing event. It was a nice change of pace to have a protagonist with a disorder to see her approach and how she coped living with it. From her crisis manager parents to a developing romance with Josh, readers ride through a ripple in Viola’s relationships with people she cares for.

Chen’s writing tactic is wonderful in the sense that readers will find themselves not having to do any outside research in order to comprehend Viola’s choices. She methodically immerses the audience into Viola’s mind providing a voice of reason to her every move. The words grab readers directly into an unfamiliar world of human photosensitivity and produce an amazing tale of denial and acceptance.

You can purchase Lovely, Dark, and Deep at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JUSTINA CHEN for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive an ARC Copy of LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP and Mini-Lanterns by Justina Chen.. 
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  1. One thing I miss is carefree summer time with friends.

  2. I miss being able to read when I want how ever much I want. And not having pay bills.
    Samantha D