Tell Me When You Feel Something: A Q&A with Vicki Grant

We’re super excited for Vicki Grant’s upcoming thriller, Tell Me When You Feel Something, so we asked Vicki to pop by the blog and answer a couple of questions!

Q&A with Vicki Grant

Tell us a little bit about the book! What inspired you?

Here’s my elevator pitch: Vivian Braithwaite is in a coma. Lots of kids shot cell phone footage of her taking a pill at a party just before she seized so there’s no real question what caused her to overdose – or is there? Davida Williamson has her doubts. Despite her crippling shyness – and her own mixed feelings about her apparent friend – Davida is determined to discover what really happened. Throw in some romance, betrayal, heartbreak, and a growing sense of dread – and that’s basically the premise behind Tell Me When You Feel Something.

The inspiration for the story came to me years ago when I found out that some of my daughter’s high school friends worked as “simulated patients” at med school. Their job basically was to ’simulate’ illnesses so student doctors could sharpen their medical chops before getting sicced on real patients. Until then, I had no idea that was a thing. My brain kicked into high gear. A YA story set in a med school? Kids having to fake diseases and conditions? I had so many ideas about what I could do with that scenario. My first attempt was a comedy TV series with the punny title of Ben Dover (also the name of our hapless hero.) I couldn’t talk anyone into buying the series, but the SP angle hung around in the back of my head. By the time I’d conceived of Viv and Davida working as SPs, the story had become much darker. My brother’s in the medical business so I’d occasionally pick his brain about what he’d witnessed. I could always count on him for some deliciously gross (if anonymous!) details after a night in emergency but it was the more complex issues he encountered that really resonated with me. I’d spoil it to say too much more other than to add that although the particulars in the book are fictional, the situations (and machinations that created them) are based on reality.

Designer credit: Talia Abramson

There are multiple perspectives in the book – what was the easiest perspective to write? The hardest? Do you have a favorite character?

Viv’s chapters were probably, if not the easiest to write, at least the easiest to conceive. I certainly wasn’t the star in high school that Viv was, but we shared a similar background. I’d never suggest I had an unhappy childhood – because I didn’t! – but I understand firsthand what Viv was going through. As in her case, my parents adored me (and my siblings), they just couldn’t stand each other. This led to some notably bad behavior. Different than in the book, but still far from ideal. Through it all, despite the unseemly behavior happening behind closed doors, we were expected to play happy, well-adjusted teenagers in the outside world. More than that, we were expected to succeed. Anything less felt like abject failure.

This, of course, isn’t an unusual situation. To a greater or lesser degree, don’t all teenagers live with the conviction that they have a terrible secret to hide? Sometimes it has to do with family breakdown or addiction. Sometimes it’s just having a sister you think is weird (which, depending on your state of mind, can loom almost as large). In the book, Viv is at the darkest part of her struggle, before she’s developed any perspective on it. I remember what that felt like – and how growing up was all I needed to get past the worst of it.

As for the hardest perspective to work from? Again, I can’t give too much away but “the bad guys” are usually the most difficult to get right. Partly that’s because I don’t identify with them (geez, I hope not) but also because I don’t believe anyone is entirely evil. Very, very bad things are done in this book. Terrible, unforgivable things. But that doesn’t mean I want to paint the perpetrator and/or perpetrators as unredeemable monsters. No one is all bad, no matter what they’ve done. I always try to imbue my villains with some decency, some inherent worth. They’re human beings after all. How to do that without in ANY WAY condoning their behavior is the tough part.

Who are some of your favorite thriller writers (or what are some of your favorite thriller novels)?

I love thrillers that make sense. That sounds like one of those “well, duh,” responses but a lot of thrillers don’t. The clues might all add up, but the basic premise doesn’t. For instance, the social media influencer who singlehandedly cracks an international cocaine ring? The pre-school teacher who teams up with a semi-pro skateboarder to solve the murder of a Moldavian prince? Might make for a fun read, but when would that ever happen? So I’m going to go way, way back for this and mention Scott Turow’s book, Presumed Innocent. It’s not a YA book but it’s still the best thriller ever. It’s a true mystery set in a real-world situation, solved by someone realistically in a position to solve it. Brilliant!

What’s your preferred genre to write? Would you write another thriller?

I love writing thrillers, especially with some humor, so yes. I’d absolutely write another one! (In fact, I’ve got one on my laptop right now, waiting for a polish.)

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a middle-grade novel called Green Velvet Dress, Worn Once. It’s about vintage clothing and medically-assisted death and forgiveness and somehow figuring out how to fill the giant gaping hole torn in your life when the person you love more than anything dies. Oh, and it’s a mystery and it’s funny too.

Pandemic question: What’s the one thing you just can’t live without these days?

At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I live in Nova Scotia where there’s been virtually no COVID, so there’s very little I’ve done without during the pandemic. Our borders were closed so I haven’t been able to travel – but how can I complain about that given what the rest of the world is dealing with? I feel very lucky. (I’ve even be able to get my highlights touched up regularly!)

Thanks for joining us, Vicki! If you’re intrigued by Tell Me When You Feel Something, make sure to request it on NetGalley right now or pick up a copy on June 15!


Tell Me When You Feel Something
By Vicki Grant
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270091 | Penguin Teen Canada
It seemed like a cool part-time program – being a “simulated” patient for med school students to practice on. But now vivacious, charismatic Viv lies in a very real coma. Cellphone footage just leads to more questions. What really happened? Other kids suspect it was not an intentional overdose – but each has a reason why they can’t tell the truth. Through intertwining and conflicting narratives, a twisted story unfolds of trust betrayed as we sift through the seemingly innocent events leading up to the tragic night. Perhaps simulated patients aren’t the only people pretending to be something they’re not. . . . The perfect after-school job turns deadly in this contemporary YA thriller that exposes the dark reality of #MeToo in the world of medicine, for fans of Karen McManus and Holly Jackson.

Vicki Grant: website | twitter | instagram

The Black Friend: Q&A with Frederick Joseph

We got a chance to ask Frederick Joseph a couple of questions about his New York Times bestselling book, The Black Friend, and his answers will inspire you.

Tell us about The Black Friend – what inspired it?

The Black Friend was inspired by a moment of racism I faced while taking the subway to work a few years ago. I sat next to a young white woman who clutched her purse as soon as I sat down, as if I was going to steal from her and then moved her seat next to a white man. I tweeted about the incident and how racist her actions were and many people argued that her actions were in fact not racist. I then realized that we have a very long way to go as a society in understanding that racism is a spectrum and microaggressions are one of the most consistent manifestations of daily racism non-white people face. I wanted to create a text that helped people further understand that fact.

You’ve been behind two successful campaigns – #BlackPantherChallenge and #RentRelief – can you tell us about how both of those started? Did you get the results you expected?

Both campaigns started by me recognizing a need in our society and wanting to do what I could to help alleviate it, though the two needs are very different. #RentRelief is likely the most practical for many. People are facing economic hardship because of the pandemic, so I raised money to send funds in hopes that it would help them during their troubles. As far as the #BlackPantherChallenge, that’s a bit more nuanced. I created that campaign because oftentimes when we discuss marginalized young people, we only talk about how to help them survive. But I believe joy is a very important part of youth as well. So I raised money to give young people a moment for joy and to see themselves represented on screen.

What other writing projects are you currently working on?

This is top secret for the moment. But I will say, I’m going to continue to find ways to support marginalized communities through my writing, especially women and the LGBTQ+ community.

You interviewed so many inspiring people for The Black Friend – were there any people you wish you could have included?

I do wish that I could have had someone who is Native American in the book. I was working on firming up time to interview three amazing people, but scheduling didn’t work out. But I will do everything in my power to get them in a future project.

Related: Who would be at your dream dinner party (once dinner parties are a thing again)?

At my dinner party hmmmm . . . You didn’t specify whether they have to be alive. So I’ll say, my fiancée, Malcolm X, Coretta Scott King, Ayanna Pressley, my editor Kaylan Adair, LeBron James, and Fred Hampton.

You provided an excellent list of recommendations in the appendices. Since releasing the book, is there anything else you’d add to those lists (book, movies, music, people to Google)?

There are SOOOO many pieces of art I wish I could have added to the list. But on my mind at this moment is the upcoming film Judas and The Black Messiah.

How have you been keeping yourself busy during the pandemic?

I’ve kept busy by moving to a new home, writing my top secret projects, and having amazing discussions such as this.

Anything else you want to share with readers?

I want to share one thought with readers: Prioritize your mental health. So much is going on in our world and I want you all to do things to heal and find your peace mentally and emotionally.

Thank you, Fred! If you haven’t picked up The Black Friend yet, it’s a powerful read.


The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person
By Frederick Joseph
272 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536217018 | Candlewick
For Frederick Joseph, life as a transfer student in a largely white high school was full of wince-worthy moments that he often simply let go. As he grew older, however, he saw these as missed opportunities not only to stand up for himself, but to spread awareness to those white people who didn’t see the negative impact they were having. Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author’s past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. Backmatter includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.

Frederick Joseph: websitetwitter | instagram

Fight Like a Girl: Q&A with Cover Artist Lauren Tamaki

Looking for a mid-week pick-me-up? Look no further: we have a new Q&A with artist Lauren Tamaki. She’s the genius behind the striking cover for Sheena Kamal‘s upcoming YA debut, Fight Like a Girl. Read on to see just how many sketches Lauren went through before she landed on this final image.

Did you read Fight Like a Girl before starting on the cover? If so, what about it stuck out to you the most?

I read the whole thing, front to back! I was struck by the ferocity of the main character: she’s angry, she swears, she fully realized. Her Trinidadian-Canadian identity is front and center and although we come from different backgrounds, I could relate to feeling of being in-between worlds and not knowing your place. The author explored the vagaries of being a 16 year old girl with gusto and the emotion was further heightened by the crazy fight sequences!

What emotions did you want to capture on the cover?

When John Martz, my wonderful art director, first briefed me on the project, we talked about dynamic image of a girl throwing a punch or a kick. The book is woven around the main character’s love for Muay Thai. I tried a few versions of that, and while they were active, sweaty and impactful, none of them had the confrontational nature that the character possessed. I tried a couple drawings that had direct eye contact but I didn’t want to create an explicit portrait of her face (someone told me a long time ago not to do that on book covers). I came to a nice solution that showcased the character’s searing stare and physicality with a bit of vulnerability tossed in.

How did you choose the colour scheme?

I knew the colour had to be hot and intense. The story is about love and violence, so I had no choice! I ended up using black ink washes coloured digitally (so it was still transparent in areas). I put a purple bruise colour under the red so it felt just a bit… achey.

Were you given any guidance from the author/editor?

The original vision for the cover was of a simple figure in an expressive illustrated style. I watched a ton of Muay Thai on YouTube to get an idea of what I was dealing with. This particular martial art is very calculated for all the fury it brings. We ended up gravitating away from that original thought, but drawing all those figures was extremely helpful.

How many drafts/designs did you go through before it was “finished”?

So so many…. I sent through 8 pencil sketches for the first review, mostly of the expressive figure in action. We toyed with a couple directions for a while but went with a more centralized view of a girl staring down the viewer while ‘on the ropes’. Once we decided on that path, I tried about 9 colour/tone tests, but nothing seemed right. I stripped it back to simple black line work and a flood of colour, which was the right treatment because it was bold and direct.

As per usual, I nit-picked right up to the delivery date: I noticed I hadn’t addressed the hand wrapping *exactly* as it should be so I went back in and fixed that. Research is so important!

Have you worked on other book covers before or do you have any coming up?

I’ve done a handful of book covers and this is definitely one of my favourites! My first book cover was with Penguin UK (Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe) and I had a great experience working with them: they let me go wild with the illustration and design of the entire wrap. I’m working on a book right now that will require a cover at some point… I think it’ll probably be the last thing I tackle!

How is designing a cover different from other illustration projects you’ve worked on?

I’ve heard designers and illustrators bemoan how book covers are difficult because of the variety of opinions required to pass muster. I’ve had wildly different experiences – mostly positive. The most joyous work occurs when you have trust and rapport with your AD. The worst experiences are when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, there is a lack of clarity and no respect for your time. Any illustration work (editorial, advertising, etc) can fall on either side.

What are some recent book covers you admire?

Designer Na Kim creates the most stunning book covers. The way she mixes illustration, photography, type… so wonderful! Her covers have incredible variety but are all blessed with her magic touch. Her image for Girl by Edna O’ Brian (featuring a gorgeous drawing by Chioma Ebinama) stopped me in my tracks.


Fight Like a Girl will be released on March 10, 2020. In the meantime, make sure you’re following Lauren and author Sheena Kamal on social media!

SHEENA KAMAL: website | instagram
LAUREN TAMAKI: website | instagram 

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: The Beauty of the Moment Cover Reveal

New year, new us! Or, at least, a new look for Tanaz Bhathena‘s sweet contemporary YA, The Beauty of the Moment. Check out the adorable cover below plus TWO Q&As: one with Tanaz and one with the cover artist/designer, Emma Dolan!

Q&A with Tanaz Bhathena

How was the process for this paperback cover different than it was for the hardcover cover?

The thought process was different. The hardcover focuses on Susan’s dreams of being an artist and the illustrations are right out of her sketchbook. The paperback focuses on both Susan and Malcolm and their romance. Both embody different aspects of the book that I love.

What do you think of the new cover?

I get hit by a serious case of nostalgia whenever I see this cover; it takes me back to my own high school days. The colour palette reminds me of a Mississauga sunset and both Susan and Malcolm appear exactly the way I imagined them!

What is your favourite scene in The Beauty of the Moment?

Susan and Malcolm’s scene at Square One Shopping Centre (which is an homage to my BFFs) and Malcolm’s scene with his uncle Mancher, which is humorous and full of good advice. 

What kind of feedback have you received about The Beauty of the Moment since it came out?

My favourite feedback for this book comes from teen readers because it was specifically written with them in mind. The best moment was during a teen girl book club (The Room Of Your Own in Toronto), when a reader said that Susan’s interactions with her mom helped her understand her own mother better. 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the sequel to Hunted by the Sky, my fantasy novel set in a medieval India-inspired world. The first book releases on June 23 2020, the sequel sometime in 2021. 

What are your most anticipated releases of 2020? 

The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes by Suzanne Collins, Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith,This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi, and Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust.

What was your favourite read of 2019?

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. 


Q&A with Emma Dolan

Did you read The Beauty of the Moment before starting on the cover?

I unfortunately wasn’t able to read it before starting the cover. As book designers we try to read the books as often as we can, but this was a tight turnaround so I relied on discussions with the editors, Lynne and Peter, to fill me in!

Were you given any guidance from the author/editor?

Yes, absolutely! My first step was to sit down with the editor to discuss the direction they wanted to take the cover. This book already had a beautifully illustrated hardcover, so it was important to get a sense of everyone’s goals for the new design, what we wanted to do differently, and why.

How did you choose the cover direction? What emotions/what kind of atmosphere were you trying to capture?

During my discussions with the editor, we narrowed down a loose concept and look for the illustration. Everyone felt it was very important to have the central character, Susan, on the cover, as well as to convey that it’s a love story. It can be tricky to depict characters on a cover that only exist in writing. The descriptions might be there on the page, but how that translates in the readers’ imaginations can vary significantly. Luckily, Tanaz was very helpful! She provided detailed descriptions of both characters, as well as the dynamic between them. Lastly, the book is set in Mississauga, and I wanted to give a little nod to that in some way. I based the colour palette on the beautiful sunsets we have here in Toronto and the GTA.

How did you create the cover?

I used a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop to create the illustration, and the final design was laid out in InDesign.

How many drafts/designs did you go through before it was “finished”?

This cover was somewhat unusual in that, apart from a few minimal colour and font revisions, the final cover is very close to the first draft I sent to editorial.

What are some other book covers you’ve worked on? Do you have any coming up?

I’m fairly new to PRHC, so all the covers I’ve worked on have yet to be released – or even printed! I believe the first book I will hold in my hands is a poetry collection by Nancy Lee. It’s always very exciting to finally get to see the finished book!

If you missed picking up The Beauty of the Moment when it came out in hardcover, you can grab the adorable new paperback when it comes out on June 23, 2020!

Make sure to follow Tanaz and Emma on social media as well.

TANAZ BHATHENA: website | instagram
EMMA DOLAN: website | instagram | twitter

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: The Beauty of the Moment Blog Tour Recap + a Q&A with Tanaz Bhathena

We just finished a successful week-long blog tour in support of Tanaz Bhathena’s The Beauty of the Moment – thank you to all the bloggers who participated!

Check out their thoughts below:

Monday, April 8

Tuesday, April 9

Wednesday, April 10

Thursday, April 11

Friday, April 12

  • Zuhra @ Venus Reads said it was a story that will linger in your mind even after you finish
  • Lisa @ Remarkablylisa recommended it to anyone who likes a little angst in their lives (in a good way)
  • Jamie @ Books and Ladders really connected to their internal and external conflicts
  • Herminia @ Aspiring Writer appreciated the way it ended
  • Delina @ Delina the Reader presented us with a playlist based on the book

Thanks for following along!

As a bonus, here’s a short Q&A with Tanaz herself:

Recommend a book for Susan and Malcolm. 

Susan: The entire Amar Chitra Katha series of graphic novels

Malcolm: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (It might have to be an audiobook though; he’s not keen on reading)

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

Have more faith in your dreams.

What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?

Butt in seat. The story won’t tell itself.

What are you reading now?

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

What books do you recommend for fans of The Beauty of the Moment?

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon, 2 States by Chetan Bhagat, and You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

5 Random Facts About Tanaz Bhathena:

  1. I decided to become a writer because I failed as a cartoonist.
  2. While visiting a foreign country, I always try to learn some of the language.
  3. I cry every time I watch The Lion King. During one particular scene.
  4. Once I figured out the fine art of using a bobby pin, I began doing my own nail art. (I’m not very good; see fact 1.)
  5. I’ve bungee jumped, zip lined and walked the edge of the CN Tower.