Jun 13, 2016

Blog Tour: The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Hello, wonderful people! When I got the email from Irish Banana Tours about the Boldly Bookish blog tour I jumped on that fast. That's because the tour featured an author whose books I am very much a fan of: Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I fell head over heels in love with her Naturals series, which is basically a YA version of Criminal Minds, except it's better. Then there's her Fixer series (I refuse to call it a duology because there better be more books), which is a teen version of Scandal and full of mean, mean twists and turns, the solving of problems, and a stellar, dimensional cast of characters. (Spoiler alert: Asher and Bodie are the actual best.) So to be on a blog tour featuring Jennifer Lynn Barnes--YES, PLEASE. And so I am very pleased to present today's post to you, with a guest post from Jennifer and a giveaway of all the Boldly Bookish books. I promise you: this post will not require the use of any Fixers.

[Beauty and the Bookshelf: Jennifer Lynn Barnes, in my opinion, does a lot of things well in her novels. It's clear that she does her research and really plans her stories out. She's also very good at writing thrillers and creating thrilling scenes that keep you on edge while reading. So I had a question for her: What does it take to write a thriller?]

In my day job, I study the psychology of fiction. Last week, I was at a symposium on the topic of emotional engagement with fictional stories, and one of the big things we discussed was the fact that when readers read, they engage in mind-reading. In psychology, we call the ability to conceptualize others minds and to read their emotions, thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and desires “Theory of Mind. We are, as a species, fascinated with the minds of others, and a large part of what draws us to stories is the opportunities that a good story provides to practice reading people—not to mention the front-row seat we get to the characters’ minds and lives.

So the first thing a good thriller needs is good characters. You need characters with complicated histories and emotional land mines, just waiting to blow. You need characters whose desires put them at odds with each other, an entire cast of characters who, given the right set of circumstances, could be either heroes or villains.

I have three basic questions I ask myself about every character I write.

The first, to quote Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is “What is your childhood trauma?” I want to know at least one key event in each character’s past that has left a scar on them in some way, and I want to know how their past has impacted who they are in the present.

The second question I ask about each character is “Who would this character die for?” We care about characters more when they care deeply and intensely about someone else—think Katniss, volunteering as Tribute for Prim.

And the third question I ask myself is “What secrets is this person keeping?” Part of writing layered characters is making readers work to know them. The more secrets a character has, the more there is to discover, and the more a reader will have to use their Theory of Mind to really know and understand the character in question.

When I’m writing a thriller, these three questions serve two purposes: they’re a way of challenging myself to write compelling characters, but they also lay the groundwork for many of the thriller elements. In a thriller, the characters might literally have to die for someone else. The secrets the characters are keeping complicate—or even create—important elements of the overarching mystery. Events in the characters’ pasts might very well come back to haunt their present—and ultimately, all of those elements are going to come into play when the stakes start rising and lives are on the line.

And that leads us to the second important element of a good thriller: the plot. One of the most memorable things that a thriller can do is surprise us. And—if you read a lot of thrillers—that can actually be a pretty high bar. I’m one of those readers (and television viewers) who almost always guesses the end of the story. I am excellent at solving fictional murders and unraveling fictional conspiracies, but I probably wouldn’t be very good at doing the same thing in the real world. Why?

Because I solve fictional mysteries not just by mind-reading the characters, but also by mind-reading the author. I use my theory of mind to figure out what information the author is trying to do with the story, and I use that to make predictions about what’s going to happen next.

So the trick as an author is to be aware that readers are, on some level, aware of the fact that I am trying to trick them. This sounds complicated, but I have a variety of techniques that I use to subvert reader expectations. For example, one of my major rules is that if something expected is going to happen, it has to happen at an unexpected time in the narrative. I love taking an event that would normally happen at the climax of a book and moving it to the middle. In The Long Game, there are at least three or four points in the book where something BIG happens, and suddenly, the book you thought you were reading isn’t the book you’re reading anymore.

Another technique that I use as a writer is to be open to changing my own ideas about what’s going to happen next. I’m constantly reading through what I’ve written as if I’m the reader, and sometimes, as a reader, I start coming up with crazy theories to explain a throwaway line, or the way a character is acting, or some subtext that has appeared in the book of its own volition. I think wouldn’t it be amazing if X just did Y because they’re secretly XYZ? And then, since I’m the writer… I make it happen.

TitleThe Fixer
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publishing Date: July 7, 2015
Pages: 372

This thriller YA is Scandal meets Veronica Mars.

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather's ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess's classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

TitleThe Long Game
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publishing Date: June 7, 2016
Pages: 368
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Tess Kendrick, teen fixer extraordinaire, returns in a pulse-pounding thriller about a deadly conspiracy at the heart of Washington.

For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate's campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets.

Meanwhile, Tess's guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can--and cannot--be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she's about to discover first-hand that power always comes with a price.

Perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Ally Carter, the second book in this thrilling series will leave readers breathless. 

Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has been, in turn, a competitive cheerleader, a volleyball player, a dancer, a debutante, a primate cognition researcher, a teen model, a comic book geek, and a lemur aficionado. She's been writing for as long as she can remember, finished her first full book (which she now refers to as a "practice book" and which none of you will ever see) when she was still in high school, and then wrote Golden the summer after her freshman year in college, when she was nineteen. 

Jen graduated high school in 2002, and from Yale University with a degree in cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought) in May of 2006. She'll be spending the 2006-2007 school year abroad, doing autism research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Website | Twitter | Tumblr

Week 1: Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt

Week 2: The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Week 3: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

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  1. I have yet to read The Fixer, but I need to read it soon! It sounds like something I would really enjoy!

  2. I love The Naturals and The Fixer series. They are both a fantastic mix of Mystery-thriller with some romance and humor. I'm very much looking forward to Bad Blood and the next book in the fixer series (I was left with so many questions after the long game!).
    Great post ^^ .

  3. All the details are in this post is awesome


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