I have the privilege to welcome YA Author, PJ Sharon, to my blog today. PJ is the author of contemporary young adult novels, including HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES and ON THIN ICE. Her stories have garnered several contest finals, including two awards for her recent release, SAVAGE CINDERELLA.
Writing romantic fiction for the past six years, and following her destiny to write extraordinary stories of an average teenage life, PJ is mother to two grown sons and lives with her wonderful husband and her fabulous dog in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA.
I’ve read all three of PJ’s books and they are amazing — full of powerful emotions and strong lead characters that make you hang on every written word. You can’t help but love Jordie, Penny, and Brinn, the heroines of her three novels. They each have their own real-life burdens and tribulations to overcome. Yet they aren’t alone. And the one thing that is always present is hope.
Welcome PJ! Let’s get to the hard questions first.
Rhonda: In your novels, you deal with a lot of difficult issues that teens face. In HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, you dealt with the loss of a sibling and friend, cutting and other self-destructive behaviors as well as first love. In ON THIN ICE, your main character, Penny, had to cope with a mother’s dying, being a caregiver, her father’s alcoholism, her parents’ unhappy marriage, a rape, teen pregnancy, her friend’s abortion, struggling with who she is and what she wants for herself, and an eating disorder. SAVAGE CINDERELLA takes on the issues of kidnapping and sexual abuse. What do you hope your young adult/teen readers will take with them after reading your books?
PJ: Thank you for having me here, today, Rhonda. The fact is that teens today, and let’s face it, of any era, have many difficult life issues thrown at them all at once. Aside from the usual high school dramas, boyfriends, and managing their uber-activities list, teens are forced to deal with the unexpected tragedies of life and all of the things that are beyond their control. Through my own difficult life experiences, I’ve come to learn that no matter how bad things get, there is always hope that they can get better. If I can spread that message to teens through engaging stories that help them see beyond the moment, it might just change a life. My heroines and heroes are characters that have to make hard choices. Through their mistakes and the ups and downs of the plot, they learn to make better choices in the end. I think readers of any age can identify with and appreciate that.
Rhonda: As an adult, well past the age of “young adult” I can say that I truly loved these stories as well. I could look back and recognize my teen self several times within your books…sometimes through the main characters and sometimes within the friends.
Let’s talk about your newest release, SAVAGE CINDERELLA. You dedicated this book “… to abuse survivors, kidnap victims, and the families who refuse to give up on love.” I love that! How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
PJ: Thanks, Rhonda! I didn’t start out with any altruistic intention. Being an outdoorswoman, I was on a hike with my dog and started daydreaming about what it would be like to grow up in the wild. I immediately “saw” Brinn running through the woods. Her name came to me and then the story questions started. What would create such a circumstance? Why would she stay out there? How could she survive? The answers to those questions took me on an amazing journey of self-healing and discovery. While researching for the book, I came across many stories of kidnap victims, the toll such a thing takes on a family, and how the hardest part for a parent of a kidnapped child, is never knowing what happened. There is no closure for these people and if you add the heaps of guilt they carry, it’s hard for them to move on.
Essentially, they never give up loving that child and praying that they are out there and somehow safe. Even if by some miracle, a child is returned to their family, there are such heartbreaking realities that the family has to deal with, that it takes a tremendous amount of love and support for everyone to return to any kind of normalcy. Most kidnap survivors have been severely traumatized and often sexually abused, and I wanted to show that even through this most extreme of circumstances, there is hope for recovery and even happiness. A perfect example is Jaycee Dugard, the young woman who was recovered after eighteen years of surviving a life with her kidnapper. In all of her interviews, she talks about forgiveness, letting go of the past, and finding happiness in returning to her family. She and others like her are an inspiration and a testament to the power of love and forgiveness and the strength of the human spirit.
Rhonda: Your novels certainly depict the strength of the human spirit, PJ. You are yourself a very dedicated and strong person. From reading your posts on other blogs, I know that some of the issues in your books, you have faced yourself such as the loss of a brother and a teen pregnancy. Do you think that your experiences have made you a stronger person or changed you in other ways?
PJ: Oh, my goodness, YES. There is a reason steel is forged in fire, LOL. I think that every time we overcome a hurdle, we are made stronger by the lessons learned. Hopefully, we take those lessons and move forward in a positive direction. Even better is when we can share them with others and make a positive difference in someone else’s life. So much of what I’ve learned has made me more compassionate, more understanding, and more loving and forgiving. Being blessed with a good attitude helps tremendously. I’m the queen of making lemonade out of my lemons.
Rhonda: Well you definitely have a great attitude and I am very thankful that you ended up in the same Kristen Lamb class as I did and that you’re part of my WANA writing friends.
For my other writing pals with us today, tell us about a typical day in the life of Author PJ Sharon.
PJ: Oh, boy…your readers will think I have a clone working for me. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, every other Friday and Saturday, I work at my private practice Massage therapy and Personal training business. I basically do 10-15 massages a week, see three or four personal training clients, and teach two yoga classes a week. My writing life happens outside of that. Most days, that means that I’m on the go from 7 a.m. to about midnight. On Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesday and Fridays, when I have the whole day, I spend a few hours in the morning going through e-mails, taking care of social media, visiting a few blogs, and either writing blogs or sending out for reviews/setting up blog tours, etc. I try to get up every hour or so and either take the dog for a walk, fit in some exercise, or throw in a load of laundry. I fill my water glass and take some deep breaths. After lunch, I try to fit in some dedicated writing time. I’ve started working on a dystopian trilogy with the first book set to release in July. I’m about 25k into it, so I’m making progress. Now that SAVAGE CINDERELLA is done, I can put my writing focus into getting the next book finished! Yeah!!! My husband is a doll and comes home and cooks most nights. I take an hour or so out for dinner with him and to catch up on our day, and then it’s back to work until bed time. I used to have a fabulous life. Now I’ve got two! I could really use that clone.
Rhonda: Sheesh! That made me tired just reading about your schedule. I’m thinking you must have a clone somewhere. LOL Seriously though, your hard work and dedication is an inspiration to us all.
So here’s a fun question for you PJ. What author, living or dead, would you most like to have a conversation with and why?
PJ: I was lucky enough to get to have a conversation with my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon who wrote the OUTLANDER series. She was at the RWA National Convention last year and we had a lovely chat. She’s a very interesting woman. I love her method of creating these amazing and complex stories and characters. She doesn’t plot! I would love to have her as a critique partner. Just sayin’.
Rhonda: Wow! What a great opportunity. Ms. Gabalon’s Outlander series is amazing.
PJ: I would be happy to answer any questions your readers might have. If they leave a comment, I’ll enter their name in a drawing for a signed copy of SAVAGE CINDERELLA. Thanks again for hosting me!
Rhonda: You’re welcome, PJ! Thank you so much for being here today. I’m thrilled to be a part of your blog tour.
Okay guys, you heard (or rather, read) PJ. Ask questions or leave a comment and you may win a copy of her latest book. And it’s awesome!
Other places you can find PJ: