Author Interview with Hillary Homzie, author of Queen of Likes
The opinions here are 100% mine! This post contains affiliate links.Queen of Likes
by Hillary Homzie
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.
As a teacher, I know all about students' love of their devices and social media, which is why this book was a perfect (and humorous) read for me. The book starts right off en media res. You jump right into Karma loosing her phone and having her social media account shut down. Then comes the peer pressure of spirit week and Karma being elected co-social chair. The 7th grade is bound and determined to win.
Queen of likes is the perfect book for a whole-class shared reading for tweens and middle school students. If I were still teaching middle school, I would use this book as part of a unit on social media and social responsibility. There are many wonderful companion articles and web sites that could aid in this conversation. I would tie this all together at the end with an argumentative writing piece with students writing to Karma or as Karma:
Write the argumentative speech that Karma could give to her parents to persuade them to return her phone and social media accounts.
Write an letter to the local paper as if you were Karma's parents. Give reasoning, support, and explanation for why young people need to ease up on social media.
In addition to getting to read this young adult novel, I was able to interview Hillary about her book, inspiration, and writing process. I am always intrigued as to how published authors work through the writing process and handle writing block because I can use that information for my own writing and to assist my students with their writing.
What was your inspiration for this book?
My inspiration for this book was watching my two teenagers and one tween grow up on screens, and specifically with the older kids—social media. It's so interesting to me because I grew up before the age of computers and social media and kids today are so used to communicating through their devices.
I noticed that my kids were becoming competitive on social media. My older son would say, "look, I got 17 likes on this post!”
And my middle son would respond, "Dude, that's nothing. I just got 30 likes."
I thought this emphasis on how people respond and was fascinating. Among young people likes are becoming a barometer for social success. So decided I wanted to explore how tweens’ sense of self and self worth was being developed through social media.
How do you handle writer’s block?
When I get writers block my first impulse is to hop in a shower or to take a walk. Alternatively, I might pop some popcorn. Or I might try another tactic, which is to write something new, preferably short, such as a chapter book or picture book. Once I’ve diverted myself I usually can hop back into my project refreshed.
What advice do you have for young/student writers?
My advice to young writers would be to read books. Lots of them. But most importantly read what gives you joy and pleasure. Then write the kinds of stories you would like to read.
Explain your revision process.
My revision process changes depending on the kind of book that I'm writing. But if I had to generalize, I’d say I focus mostly on the opening chapters. In other words, I usually write the first chapter in an exploratory way. I generally have a situation in mind and a main character pops up. Or sometimes I have a character in mind and I throw her into a particular situation where she'll have to struggle in some way. As I write the first chapter (sometimes also the second or third) I get a chance to know my characters better. I get to decide what the major conflict of the book is. I usually rewrite those first few chapters again and again and again until I get a really good sense of my characters, setting and themes as well as the tone of the book. Only then can I go on to finish the book.
What book has influenced you the most? Why?
Which book has influenced me the most? Wow, that's a really hard question. But in terms of my middle grade work, I would have to say it's been Judy Blume. She has an unparalleled ear for how real kids sound and how they behave. And most importantly, she knows how they feel. At the same time, she has this ability to dive deeply into ordinary life that astounds me.
AUTHOR Bio and Links
AUTHOR Bio and Links
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.
The song QUEEN OF LIKES which was written just for the book. It’s a wonderful song.
HIllary is awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner during the tour.