Blog Tour: Quick Qs and As with Jessica Leader + Contest!

Today, I'm hosting Jessica Leader, author of Nice and Mean,  here on Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf as part of her blog tour, which schedule is below if you would like to check out the rest of the stops. Though, without a further ado, here's my interview with her.


In your opinion, what are the top three reasons why tweens, teens, or even adults should consider picking up Nice and Mean come its release?

I loved that you asked this! People should pick up Nice and Mean because it gives you the skinny on the following:

  • Why being nice can make you feel just as sucky as being mean
  • What it’s like to be Asian-American and have everyone think you’re perfect—and boring
  • Why you may feel the urge to buy new shoes, even though you probably have many that fit just fine
Now, in detail:

The past few years have brought us many books about girls and meanness, but as far as I know, Nice and Mean will be the first that deals with the pitfalls of niceness. Niceness can smooth the way, but it can also give people the message that they can walk all over you. So what do you do if you want something your way for a change? Do you even know? Nice and Mean explores those questions from the point of view of Sachi, our nice girl, at the hands of Marina, the, um, not-so-nice one. (Okay, fine, I’ll say it: Marina is mean! Marina also gets her day in the sun, though. Never you fear.)

Another unique thing about Nice and Mean is that it’s one of the few pieces of kidlit that features an Indian-American girl…and her problems. For example: yeah, she does well in school, but she’s creative, too! Why don’t people want to hear what she has to say?

Finally, Nice and Mean tries to answer the age-old question, How do things become popular? We’re wearing gladiator sandals one season and espadrilles the next…why? Marina and Sachi are on the scene with a video they made that suggests some answers.

Marina and Sachi are the main characters in Nice and Mean, so can you tell us a little bit about them? Also, if you could offer each advice, what would you say?

So, Marina. She’s not mean, exactly…I mean, yeah, she puts people down when they annoy her, and she cooks up schemes to show them how lame they are, but only because they deserve it! She’s just got a lot on her plate. She’s the only one of her friends not in the school play, and her so-called friend Rachel is trying to sink her claws into Julian the hottie. If she’s trying to film a video that makes Rachel look bad, and needs to push Sachi out of the way in Video Elective, whatever! You gotta do what you gotta do.

My advice to Marina: Stop! Dear God, stop trying to destroy people before you get into huge, huge trouble!
And poor Sachi. Seventh grade is not going according to plan. All she’s wanted since the end of sixth was to make a video to show in the Arts Assembly—something that will get people talking, maybe about why people so often stick to friends of the same race. When her parents want her to take a test-prep class instead of video, she can’t bear to go through with it, so she forges their signature on the permission slip. Then when her video partner turns out to be Marina Glass—disaster! How on earth is she supposed to get people talking when Marina won’t let her speak?

My advice to Sachi: You may be running into obstacles, but if you don’t tell your friends what’s going on with you, you’ll feel all alone, and it will be even worse when things don’t go well. Also: Stop! Dear God, stop sneaking around, before you get into huge, huge trouble!

In Nice and Mean, Marina, the mean one, and Sachi, the nice one, are forced to work together on a project. Has a time like this ever come up in your life?

Not that I can think of. I pretty much always got to choose partners for school projects…unlike many of the students I taught, I’m afraid, because I sometimes assigned them people to work with! If I go back to teaching full-time, I might need to rethink the evilness of that approach. Then again, Sachi and Marina both learned a lot from working together, so maybe I’ll keep it!

What was your favorite part about writing Nice and Mean?

I must admit, it was pretty fun to channel Marina’s snarky voice. One of my favorite lines: “My friends were quoting Grease so much that I had to tell them, ‘Hold the cheese; this is not Burger King.’” I don’t think I would ever have said that to anybody, even in my meanest of modes, but Marina just made those phrases pop out of my mouth, and I really enjoyed her for it.

If Nice and Mean had an official theme song, what would it be?

“Human,” by The Pretenders. “I bleed and I bruise—oh, but what’s it to you? I’m only human on the inside. See, I stumble and fall—baby, I do it all—I’m only human on the inside.” I know it’s a break-up song, and Nice and Mean is most definitely not a romance, but many of the lines expressed how I thought Marina and Sachi would feel about each other—that they are going through so much angst and think the other one has no idea. (Which pretty much, they don’t.)

I love the title of this one, so how did it come to be?

I…have no idea. It just came to me. I’m glad you like it, though!

Is there a specific message you hope readers take from Nice and Mean?

On one hand, No! I just wanted to write a story that felt true. On the other hand, there are obviously some thoughts in here about balancing niceness and assertiveness in trying to get what you want. Sachi and Marina also share some ideas in their video about why things are popular, and I hope that whether readers bow to the popularity gods or shun them, the book makes them think about what’s attractive and risky about that path.

What were you like at Marina and Sachi's age? Were you similar to one or both in any ways?

Let’s just say that I couldn’t have written Marina’s one-liners if I had never approached the world with total witchery, and I could never have channeled Sachi’s ragingly insecure moments if I had never had any myself.

How does it feel knowing that the book you’ve worked so hard on is going to be in stores soon?

Kind of unbelievable! Someone even sent me a Tweet saying she’d found an advanced copy of Nice and Mean at The Strand Bookstore, and I was like, “What? How could that be true? Only people I have asked to read it are going to read it!” I’ve been wanting to publish a book for a really, really long time, and not everyone gets to see a dream come true. I am extremely grateful.

I always love these type of stories, so what was The Call like?

A hilarious experience! I knew the editorial staff at Simon and Schuster would be meeting to discuss the manuscript during the second week of October, and I thought grouchily, “Monday is the only day of this week I am looking forward to, because they’ll all have off for Columbus Day. At least I won’t need to worry on Monday.”

What was I thinking? Publishing companies hardly ever take national holidays. But I wasn’t thinking that when I pedaled off to my job at an after-school program and turned off my phone from three til six. When I turned it back on, there was one message from the editor sounding kind low-key. I thought, “#@?%#, she’s calling with bad news.”

Then I listened to the next message, which was her calling again to say, “I’m leaving work and going into the subway, but I couldn’t wait to tell you that we want to make an offer on Nice and Mean.” A whole different kind of #@?%#!! I couldn’t reach my now-editor, Kate Angelella, to thank her, but I told my co-workers and they cheered and gave me hugs. Then I noodled around the neighborhood calling everyone I knew, and I wandered so far that I got a little lost. I think I had to ask some people on their stoop to help me find my way back to the school. But who cared? I was going to be a published author!

You’re part of the fabulous 10’ers, which leaves me to wonder what your experience has been like working with them.

The Tenners are incredibly generous and fun. Whether they’re sharing good news, giving out publicity strategies, asking questions or venting woes, they have kept me in the know and prevented me from feeling alone. Being a first-time author is thrilling, but there are many steps of the process that writers don’t necessarily know how to handle on their own. I think I would have been a miserable wreck if I hadn’t had the Tenners to turn to for guidance this year. I am so grateful to have been pointed in their direction.

Quick! Name three random things that most wouldn’t know about you.

-I love anything you can pick, peel, pluck, or pop: labels on magazines; buds on impatiens flowers—you name it. I gave a little cry of despair when The Horn Book started printing their address labels right on the cover, instead of on a peelable strip. And no impatiens are safe around me.

-I used to teach sex ed, and I loved being the person who made kids feel okay asking embarrassing questions. I only ever laughed at one: “What happens if a woman is giving birth and she needs to fart?” I just was not expecting that!

-Growing up, my sister and I were in love with TV movie Nadia, about gymnast Nadia Comaneci. Not only is it still a completely excellent piece of televisual cinema, but I have made quite a few instant friends when I discovered people who shared my devotion. “Another delicious carrot stick, my dear?” “Which one is delicious?” Or, in a pivotal scene, “She is from Romania and she is twelve years old. Her name…is Nadia!”

What’s up next for you book-wise?

A YA novel in which the narrator tries to get over an accident that occurred the summer before in the woods.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Marina would like to say, “It was really cool of you to have me on your blog, Lauren. Your blog is so much better than Rachel’s, because hers is full of pathetic attempts to get Julian to like her and has too many pictures of her in unfortunate outfits.”

Sachi chimes in, “I appreciate the chance to tell readers about Nice and Mean! I might have to check with my parents about whether it’s okay for me to be on a blog, though. If they say no, can you change my name but still have my answers here? Oh, and somehow make sure my sister doesn’t find out?”

Jess says—thank you, Lauren! This was really fun!

And hey, readers—come visit my blog to learn how to win the Grand Giveaway prize—a free copy of Nice and Mean, plus other book-related treats like addictive coconut candy! The book goes to whomever writes a Tale from Seventh Grade that is most pleasing to me. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Thanks so much, Jessica! I'm really looking forward to reading Nice and Mean.

The rest of the tour is as follows:

Monday 6/7: The Story Siren
Tuesday 6/8 (the official launch day!): Green Bean Teen Queen--Tween Tuesday review and interview
Wednesday 6/9: The Page Flipper--Top 5 Nice and Mean Characters
Thursday 6/10: Reading in Color -possibly a focus on characters of color
Friday 6/11: Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

And now for the contest....

Jessica has been kind of enough to offer up the following for ONE very lucky winner.

Winners will recieve a book out of the book box:

* Summer Camp Secrets by Katy Grant (for all your middle-grade reading pleasure)
* The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (hm, I'm sensing a summer theme)
* Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson (a page-turner by Jess's indispensible friend)
* A signed copy of Need by Carrie Jones (yes! Signed by the author! Not by Jess; that would be weird)
* Boys Are Dogs by Leslie Margolis (one of Jess's favorite middle-grade books)
* The Year I Turned Sixteen by Diane Schwemm (worth all ten pounds)
* Front Page Face-Off by Jo Whittemore (debut author's madcap middle-grade)

And Nice and Mean Swag:

* signed N&M bookmarks

Swag of Nice Girl Sachi:

* Indian bangle bracelets (not as special as Nani's ring, but still important)
* Indian coconut candies (these are so good--you're lucky Jess didn't eat all of them)

Swag of Mean Marina:

* Dr. Pepper lip gloss (Dr. Pepper: the only drink)
* Pilot Rolling Ball pens (PRBs: the only pen)
* stick-on rhinestones (Yuck! Marina wishes you wouldn't mention these. The mess with Rachel is their fault!)

To enter, please enter the following form.

Also, here are the 'rules':

•entrants must be 13 years of age or older
•coments below will not count as entries.
•contest open to US residents only! (Though, as always, feel free to enter if you have a friend in the states who would be willing to ship to you.)
~ ADDITION: Contest will end on June 18th!
Lastly, don’t forget to head over to Jessica Leader’s blog to enter the Nice and Mean Grand Prize Giveaway—aka, all this swag plus a copy of the book. Learn how to earn points by spreading the word, or win the battle of wits, where you get others to vote for your favorite nice or mean character in books, tv and movies.


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  2. Loved the interview. I really hope to read this one soon.

  3. Great interview. Sounds like a Great book. Have added Jessica to my new authors list and book to my wish list.

    Thanks for the great giveaway.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  4. Thanks for the giveaway, this book looks like so much fun to read and the interview was awesome, love the theme song for the book, lol!

  5. Hey, Laureeen! I haven't talked to you in forever, whoops. hehe.

    But great interview! Being Asian-American myself, I guess I can be pretty boring and "perfect." Gah, not really. I also love reading The Call stories and, lol, Jessica sounds like such a hilarious and fun person. I'm crossing my fingers for the giveaway for those awesome candies! (Haha, I know I'm a fattie, but I'm still a food junkie. :D )

  6. Back again. I posted this up on my sidebar, though I was looking for the date this contest ends and couldn't find one... Did I miss it? Sorry!

  7. Great interview. I have to say i love the cover of this book and also that the characters have really original fantastic names


  8. Oooh awesome interview ! I love the cover of the book !


  9. Haha...I love how you said "worth all ten pounds" about The Year I Turned Sixteen. I haven't read it yet, but boy is that a thick book! :)


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