Readers, we are in for a treat today. Did someone say milkshake? Well, a virtual milkshake at least. Today, we are joined by middle grade author, Niki Lenz. She is here to share a little about her brand new book, THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP.
Kai: Niki, would you mind telling us a little about you first?
Hi! My name is Niki Lenz and I live in Kansas City, Missouri, with my husband and two adorable children. I studied elementary education at Southwest Baptist University and taught kindergarten for six years. I enjoy reading, travel, glamping, polka dots, red lipstick, and oldies music. I am the author of BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN and THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP.
That’s an attention-getting title and an eye-catching cover. Tell us more.
THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP (June 16, Random House)
Filled with reverse Parent Trap-like pranks, The Stepmom Shake-Up is a hilarious and heartfelt look at what it means to be a family.
After Grace's mom died, she and her dad grew extra close. They have special nicknames and are always busy with new projects- like building a puppy condo for their dog, Potus- and they love learning random facts about US presidents. Grace thinks her little family of two is perfect.
Then some committee members at church suggest it's time for Dad to start dating again. And Dad agrees! Grace knows that adding a new member to the team will end in disaster. No problem! She and her best friend have a plan. Operation: Stepmom Shake-Up! But what if a little shake-up is exactly what Grace's family needs?
All the buy links can be found at www.NikiLenz.com/books
Kai: What inspired you to write this book?
THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP has a rather funny origin story. My husband and I were hosting a dinner party, and I am terrible at small talk. There were some couples there that we didn’t know very well, and so I asked everyone to tell about a childhood memory (I’m really fun at parties). Anyway, one guy told about how his father was a pastor and he remembered how he and his brother used to go with him when he visited sick people in the hospital. They would run all over the clinic playing hide and seek. For some reason that image stuck with me, and later that month I sat down a wrote a scene where a girl goes with her Dad, who is a pastor, to the hospital. The entire rest of the book kind of spun off of that scene, and then, in the way that is typical in the world of book editing, that very scene got cut.
Another interesting thing about THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP’s inspiration is that it went through some very extensive revisions. At one point while on deadline for a new scene and feeling rather out of ideas, I went to my daughter, who happens to be the same age as Grace, the main character. I asked my daughter, “What would you do if you were trying to make two adults fall in love with each other?” She immediately answered, “I would give them one milkshake with two straws.” I ran off and wrote that scene and when my team loved it so much the title changed to THE STEPMOM SHAKE-UP, and the amazing cover was born! So, my daughter deserves at least fifty percent credit for the ideas in this book.
Kai: Okay, now for a bit of fun to help our readers get to know the lady behind the book a little better. Please share your top 3 answers to the following questions:
Top 3 character traits you like to add to all or most of your characters
Humor, compassion, inability to fit in
Kai: Ah, the inability to fit in. So many of us can relate to that one!
Top 3 moments in your writer life
My first call with my amazing agent, Kate Testerman when she said she wanted to represent me will forever clock in as one of my all-time best moments. It felt like a dream come true. A while later I had another “pinching myself” moment when Caroline Abbey at Random House told me she wanted to publish my first book, BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN. And the first time I held the ARC of that book in my hands was akin to holding one of my babies for the first time. Only with less dirty diapers involved.
Kai: I’m swooning for you right now. That all sounds amazing. I’ve heard fabulous things about Kate Testerman!
Top 3 pieces of advice for new writers
Read EVERYTHING in your genre.
Find other writers who are on this crazy journey with you and help and support one another.
Write what makes you happy.
And (bonus) Just don’t ever give up.
Kai: Great advice, Niki! Thanks for stopping in, Niki, and sharing your new book with us! Because you are obviously so much fun, where can readers connect with you?