Interview With Ben Philippe, Author of “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager”!

ben 2If you are passionate about writing and want to pursue it professionally, you might want to keep certain skills off your resume. Ben Phillippe, author of the forthcoming debut novel, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager (Balzer + Bray, January 9, 2019) is one of many who had jobs that he disliked, but when he removed Microsoft Excel from his resume, he yielded opportunities that were a lot more appealing. “For a while my resume was just a bunch of stuff I knew how to do, but that didn’t make me happy because the only thing that makes me happy is writing,” he explained to So Booking Cool.

“I would get these temp jobs that required a lot of Excel and Microsoft Access because that’s what I was advertising to the world, and then I just started to remove them. They were small jobs–I was living month to month, but I was just doing stuff that was close enough to writing so that I could keep the passion alive.” Phillippe would go on to write for a host of publications including Vanity Fair, Observer, The Guardian, Thrillist, and Playboy, just to name a few. He also has a background in ghostwriting and teaches writing at Barnard College.

FGTNAT - CoverAs for Field Guide, Philippe hopes people will find the book funny. He also feels his character Norris is an underrepresented one in mainstream storytelling.  “Representation is kind of a big thing these days, especially in YA literature, which is great. We see a lot of characters that we wouldn’t normally see, like ten years ago we wouldn’t see characters of color in bestselling books, but I think there’s still the expectation that when you’re reading a story about a black male character, ‘oh no, it’s gonna be sad at the end; oh no, it’s gonna get Precious.”

While Philippe notes that Norris does have stakes and an emotional journey in the book, the story is more about comedy and a young guy’s high school experience. Listen to the interview to learn more about Philippe, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager, creating characters, his insight on ghostwriting, why he loves teaching and how it fuels his writing, who he envisions portraying Norris, his thoughts on the reboot of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more! For more information visit his official website.

Interview With Alessandra Balzer, Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray!

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When Alessandra Balzer was fresh out of Colgate University, where she majored in French Literature and minored in English, she took her first job at HarperCollins as an editorial assistant. Years later she would become co-publisher of her own imprint at the same company. Balzer and Donna Bray, a fellow HarperCollins colleague, were both experienced and eager to become entrepreneurs. In 2008, they launched Balzer + Bray. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Beyond the Pond, authored and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler, I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah Ariel and Leah on The OffBeat by Becky Albertalli are among just the few of the New York Times bestselling, critically-acclaimed and award-winning titles that Balzer + Bray have published.  Many of these titles have also become feature films, including The Hate U Give, which is slated to hit the big screens in October. “We like to do books that are risk-taking, when it’s appropriate, and when it offers a new voice and perspective,” Balzer told So Booking Cool.

Balzer is excited for the forthcoming titles at her company, including Kheryn Callender‘s second book and first YA novel, This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story (due in the fall) and writer and screenwriter Ben Philippe‘s Field Guide to the North American Teenager. “Thank goodness we’re finally seeing more different voices represented in children’s books and we have a long way to go still,” Balzer said. “[Field Guide] is an important book because it’s about a black boy having love stories, friendships, and drama, like anyone else. And I feel like we need a lot more of those.”

Balzer, whose publishing career spans 24 years (including a tenure at Disney Hyperion), worked under the tutelage of Katherine Tegen (Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins) and Nancy Siscoe (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House). She went on to edit titles that became National Book Award Finalists (Sold by Patricia McCormick, The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich; Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee)  Caldecott Honors (Mo Willems),and Newbery Medal-winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi, to name a few.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about publishing, Balzer’s advice for aspiring book editors, such as the pros and cons of specializing in one genre and being involved in multiple genres, the inspiration behind of I Am Not Enough, her favorite projects, and more! For more information, follow the co-publisher on Twitter.

“The Hate U Give” Author Angie Thomas Unveils “On the Come Up” Book Cover!

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Angie Thomas, debut author of the bestselling young adult novel, The Hate U Give, is gearing up for her next release, On the Come Up. The hotly anticipated novel is about 16-year-old Bri, an aspiring rapper (it runs in her family, as her father was an underground rapper on the brink of major success until his death) whose passion for conquering the rap world intensifies once her remaining family struggles to avoid homelessness.

Thomas has teamed up with Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) again for On the Come Up, which will be available June 5.

In addition to Thomas’s second book, fans can look forward to the film adaptation of The Hate U Give, which stars Amandla Stenberg (who also portrayed the protagonist in the bestselling YA novel-turned-film, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon).