Jolene Perry got in touch with me a few months ago via e-mail just because we're both Cedar Fort authors. I thought I'd start off with that to show just how awesome this girl is. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say someone is really warm, friendly, and epic when I've only spoken to them through e-mail... but I don't really care. I'm going to say it anyway!
Jolene was nice enough to send me an ARC of her book "The Next Door Boys" and I must admit, once I started reading it I couldn't stop. The story just grabbed me!
I feel like before I write this review I should mention that this is the first LDS fiction novel I’ve ever read. When I first started reading it I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was surprised by the fact that prayers were written down and seeing someone living a life following the same beliefs I do was unusual for me. It was definitely a different feel from the fiction I normally read. That being said, I LOVED it. I didn’t feel like it was so focused on Leigh’s religion that non-LDS people couldn’t understand or enjoy it. I loved the compassion and understanding that you can tell went into writing this book. It’s obvious when a writer loves her characters and Jolene Perry proves that. You love Leigh and the others because you can see the heart that was put into them by Jolene. It was funny, emotional, and real. I would recommend this book to anyone! Young, old, LDS, Catholic. You name it, I’d say ‘Hey you should read this awesome book called The Next Door Boys’.
I was lucky enough to do an interview with Jolene about her book and writing in general. But before you enjoy hearing a little about Jolene, here's a little about her book (Available October 8th)... By the way, did I mention that if you comment on this post you'll automatically be entered to win either a $35 gift card to Amazon or your very own brand spankin new copy of "The Next Door Boys"? Well consider it mentioned!
The Next Door Boys
Leigh Tressman has been known as a lot of things – the girl who sings, the girl who sews, Jaron’s little sister, and last year, the girl with cancer. With her body still recovering from the cancer treatments, she’s determined to be independent and convinces her parents to let her follow her overprotective brother, Jaron, to BYU.
With an ever expanding line of young men ready to be in love with her – not to mention physical frustrations, and spiritual dilemmas – Leigh almost misses the opportunity to be with the man who has been quietly falling in love with her since they met. The Next Door Boys proves that even with (or maybe in spite of) independence, love can be found in comfortable, but delightful places.
An Interview with Jolene
- What inspired you to write this story?
I read Ally Condie’s Being Sixteen. That was my first LDS fiction. And I was like, cool. A REAL story that felt like it was about REAL, imperfect people, and living with the beliefs that I do. I wanna do that.
"The Next Door Boys" started as a comedy about a girl who goes to college determined not to get involved with any guys, and has guys who like her. Then as I thought about what made her SO fiercely independent (and a good friend of mine got cancer) it turned into something different. Besides, I’m much better at writing emotion than comedy.
- Do you see any of yourself in Leigh?
I love the silly, impetuous side of Leigh. That’s very much like me, or how I can be. I overdress for church, so I really wanted her to have that. Also, I sew. I had a lot of sewing projects at the time that I started this book, so I knew my time would be divided.
This was the second thing I ever wrote. This was the first book I wrote where I knew I wanted it to be a whole book when I finished. It helped a lot being able to “channel” Leigh as I was working on my sewing projects, and that’s honestly one of the main reasons I wanted her to sew – and then it ended up working for her in a lot of different ways.
- Do you pull from your real life experiences when you write? How much do they influence your writing?
On my blog, I have all these things in this book that came from reality. Brian started out as someone I knew (who shares some of the same tattoos – the tree one was where it started) and it felt all really weird to write him at first, but Brian became his own person fairly quickly. Whew!
My real life experiences influence my writing a TON. My family laughs out loud in places no one else would think to laugh, just because they know that particular thing is all me. The love of Crown Burger, hammocks, heels, some of the specific lines. So yeah, anytime you read a book by me, you’ll know that there’s a lot of ME in there, and I do it on purpose.
- This story seems to focus a lot on Leigh’s first impression of people and how that changes over time. Do you think Leigh judges people fairly for the most part or does she let what she sees influence her too much?
She DEFINITELY makes snap judgments. She notices clothes. She judges her roommates fairly harshly for good or bad right off the start. She judged Brian harshly, and she also put Noah into a tidy box of perfection. She also has a bit of a hard time changing her perceptions of people, or allowing them to move from one perception to another.
- What do you do to get in the writing state of mind? Is there some essential thing you need to sit down and start writing?
Nothing is essential but the desire to put words on a page. Is a quiet house helpful? Yep. Does it happen often? Nope. When I can’t write, I listen to the playlist I have for a character or a project to get myself in the “mood” and then when I can sit down, my hope is that I’m already in it, and can just jump into writing. Sometimes I listen to music when I write, but it has to be quiet, just enough that the beat or the feel of the music seeps into what I’m working on.
- If your book was made into a movie, what would the soundtrack be?
A mix of 500 Days of Summer and Dan In Real Life.
LOVE those two movies, and love their soundtracks.
- What is your favorite thing about this story?
My favorite thing is that Leigh is really faced with two (main) boys. Noah – who is perfect on paper, and Brian who is a disaster on paper. I love that part of it.
My favorite scenes are –
Leigh’s rant about the romantic movies.
After her neighbor Julie has her baby, and a certain someone follows her out of the hospital.
When she falls asleep putting Nathan to bed.
OH! And when she finally asks Brian about his tattoos. I also really love it when Leigh’s forced to eat a bit of humble pie after her snap judgments. Actually, I seem to be having a hard time narrowing it down, because her and her brother have some great scenes that I just love as well. And the big scene with Noah at the restaurant with his parents . . .
- Anything you want to say to… well… anyone reading this blog?
Umm . . . I hope you love this story half as much as I do?
That writing is the most amazing thing I’ve done outside of my family?
That I love the writing community just as much as I love the reading community. People who love books are awesome :D
Also – I wrote a book about Leigh’s first year of married life that I HOPE CFI takes on. So, I guess watch for – To Take This From You – unless they either 1. Don’t take it or 2. Make me change the name, lol.
If you want to learn more about Jolene, her books, or just be a part of her awesome world, you can visit her blog here. Don't forget to add her book to your 'to read' list on Goodreads! Also, if you're going to put the book on your 'to read' list you might as well know where you can buy it right :) That's what I'm here for! Pick up your copy of "The Next Door Boys" here!
And don't forget to leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a $35 Amazon gift card or copy of "The Next Door Boys"!