Friday, March 11, 2022

Joy L. Smith Interview - Turning

Photo Content from Joy L. Smith

Joy L. Smith is a childcare professional and lives in Queens, New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, she has a bachelor’s degree in human development and differences, with a specialization in communication disorders. She’s been writing since she was a teenager and has been mentored by Ibi Zoboi, Radha Blank, and Emma Straub through the Girls Write Now program. Turning is her debut novel.


Greatest thing you learned in school.
The greatest thing I learned in school was how to listen. Just staying chill and having self control and listening skills took me a long way in school.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
There are so many authors I loved as a teenager, and authors I love now that write for young adults, and they are absolutely so influential for me. I aspire to have a long catalog of works like Sharon M. Draper and Ibi Zoboi. I adore Brandy Colbert for her varied stories.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is so important for all of us because without it how could we learn what happened? How could we see what could be? How could we cheer ourselves up or lend a cautionary tale? How could we be if there's nothing to tell?

Are there any new Authors that have grasped your interest and why?
I'm not sure if she's considered new, but I really enjoy Kristina Forest's works. For me her work is so bright and light, which is refreshing for stories about Black girls. Her words remind me of Sarah Dessen in that way, that easy breezy style of writing while still having so much heart and conflict. We need more of that.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I'm a huge theater nerd so I'm writing the theater story of my heart currently. It'll have so many nuggets for theater fans and I want it to be this swoon worthy book while also having my darker themes in there. It should be interesting!

In your newest book; TURNING, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Turning, is my YA contemporary debut about 17 year old Genie, a ballerina who is put out of dancing commission permanently due to an accident. She's upset at the world and pushes her friends and family away as she struggles to accept who she is becoming vs who she thought she was. Along the way she meets Kyle, an ex gymnast with a TBI at physical therapy, who is also struggling with the terms of his accident.

It's a story of grief, learning, friendship and forgiveness with Black Girl Magic and ballet.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I want readers to continue dreaming their dreams and fighting for them. I want readers to learn to take care of themselves mentally and allow help when they feel like they need it. I hope readers come out of Turning with openness of what's ahead.

  • It was my first book I’ve written by myself.
  • It was the first book I queried.
  • Was called The Breaking Pointe as a working title.
  • Vaganova American Ballet was modeled after The School of American Ballet and Ballet Academy East in a hybrid form.
  • Genie wants to dance in the same company Sarah Hay from the show Flesh & Bone danced in.
  • Genie practices Vaganova technique.
  • Art cover was done by Talia Skyles.
  • Takes place exclusively in Brooklyn.
  • Genie’s favorite snack is Twinkies.
  • The ice cream place in the story is modeled after the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
What part of Genie and Kyle did you enjoy writing the most?
The most enjoyable part of writing for Genie and Kyle was when they were both honest with each other. There's a scene towards the end of the book where they're hanging out at Kyle's house, and they're both so open. I loved writing scenes where they didn't say anything but it was their actions that said so much. There's one scene where Kyle rubs Genie's hand and it's such a sweet moment and I love that she couldn't process it at first. It was something she wasn't used to.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce Genie to Theo from Brandy Colbert's Pointe. They're both Black ballerinas and they both have a lot of trauma. So they would have a lot to talk about.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
My first airplane ride was to Atlanta, Georgia. I was visiting family and normally it would've been a train ride but I don't think my mom had the time to devote so my twin and I were unaccompanied minors. I think we were like five.

What is your most treasured memory?
My most treasured memory was getting my book deal. It really couldn't have come at a better time. The summer of 2020 was rough so I absolutely love that good came from such a hard year for everyone.

Best date you've ever had?
Never been on a romantic one, but my sister and I took our first adult girl's trip together last summer and it was glorious.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
When my Grandmother died. She was the first person that I truly knew to pass away. I was so scared of what life would be without her physically here.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
I cannot even think of a time I needed to write a letter on paper.

Favorite things to do alone?
My favorite thing to do alone is read.

My Favorite Quotes:
“I may have named my chair Odile, but if I were a real black swan I’d fly away.”
“I want to be the Genie that oozed confidence and drew attention when attitude turns and Italian fouettes were just a part of my drip.”

In this raw, searingly honest debut young adult novel, a former aspiring ballerina must confront her past in order to move forward from a devastating fall that leaves her without the use of her legs.

Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.

But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.

But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.

You can purchase Turning at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JOY L. SMITH for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Turning by Joy L. Smith.