Welcome to March, where the debuts are plentiful and the books are awesome!
A Good Kind of Trouble
by Lisa Moore Ramée
Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)
But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?
Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn't think that's for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.
Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn't face her fear, she'll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.
March 12th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hi! I’m Lisa Moore Ramee, the author of A Good Kind of Trouble coming out March 12th. I’ve been writing for over twenty years, querying manuscripts for over ten. I write both YA and MG, fantasy and contemporary. My debut is MG contemporary and tells the story of Shayla Willows, a seventh grader who is trying to avoid trouble, a bully and face planting at track meets. She’s in her first year of junior high—which is like middle school but only 7th and 8th grade—and her friendships are changing, and she’s forced to consider whether she’s Black “enough.” It’s been called a middle-grade The Hate U Give, and I say it’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl meets Judy Blume.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
Based on my querying history, and the length of time it took to connect with an agent, probably the most surprising thing was how quickly my book sold. Ironicially, the second most surprising thing was how slow the publishing process is. My book sold in 2017, and 2019 was the earliest we could get it on the schedule!
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
There’s a TON I could shout-out, but hey to my sis Alicia Williams—since her book is out NOW and you can just go right out and get her amazing debut, Genesis Begins Again.
Who is your favorite character?
Most people who’ve read the book say, Bernard, but mine is Coach West. When I first wrote the book she was going to have magical powers and be sort of a fairy godmother, but I love how she doesn’t need magic to help Shayla.
How long did it take you to write this book?
First draft took about six months. And then it took ten years to chisel out the final draft from where I started.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was initially inspired by the divide I saw myself between races when I was in junior high, and how I saw it still playing out when my kids got to junior high. Inspired is the wrong word, but a huge thing that also affected me and this book was the death of Philando Castile (July 6th) and Alton Sterling (July 7th).
What was the hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene was the first fight between Shayla and Julia.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
I think there are two things new writers can do: learn to accept feedback and don’t give up.
Describe your writing space.
Ironically, it has just changed. I used to write at the kitchen island, then in our living room since it had good light, but recently, I moved into our guest room so I could have a door I can close and I can stare either out the window or my packed book cases.
Who is your favorite author?
I have a long list of authors I adore, but since my debut is MG, I’ll give you my top author in that space: Erin Entrada Kelly. Erin is the author who showed me how to introduce complicated, difficult topics in MG without losing the humor that is needed for this age group. And how to write simply, but with strength.
Tell us your favorite recipe!
The first thing I ever cooked on my own (when I was just about Shayla’s age) was spaghetti. I was very proud of it, and then a few years later we got a new student at my high school. He was from Italy and I had a mad crush on him so I invited him over for dinner. I made my “famous” spaghetti and he pointed to the pot and asked me what it was. When I told him, he said, “That is not spaghetti.” I’m still not sure if he was being critical of me using the word for the type of noodle for the name of the dish, or if he meant something much worse. Lol. Still, I make it the same way now all these years later, and call it spaghetti, with all apologies to Pietro.
3 cloves garlic (or more!)
half a lemon
1 lb. spicy Italian bulk sausage
1 can diced tomatoes
1 packet of spaghetti seasoning (yes, I use a packet—I was eleven when I started cooking this!)
If you want to be fancy, you can add in about half a cup of red wine
While pasta is cooking:
Saute garlic in a large skillet. Add sausage and cook thoroughly. Dump in can of tomatoes. Dump in sauce packet. Fill empty tomato can about 3/4 full of water and add.
Squeeze in the juice of that half lemon.
Let this all simmer, and once pasta is done, add about a half cup of the pasta water.
When I made this as a kid, I would strain the pasta and then mix the sauce and pasta together. But then I had a son who didn’t like his food touching and started serving it with the meat sauce ladled on top of the noodles—or in his case, on the side.
Really the flavor of this sauce comes from using the Italian seasoned meat.
Link us to a favorite song!
Oddly, a song I often listen to when writing (on repeat—honestly I’ve listened to it hundreds of times at a go) is U2 singing Baby, Please Come Home. It’s odd because it’s a Christmas song. But that in no way affects my love for listening to it throughout the year. https://youtu.be/XiSPNaQNGOY
Lisa, thank you so much, and I can't wait to read your book! Readers, check it out on 3/12/19!