by Christine Grabowski
GENRE: Young YA - fantasy
Dickensen Academy isn’t a typical boarding school. The faculty is hiding an unbelievable secret within their fine arts program. When Autumn Mattison receives an invitation to attend the high school, she yearns to escape her overbearing father yet remains reluctant to leave her mother and brother. Her doubts fade away when a vivid dream convinces her she belongs there.
Away from home, Autumn discovers a unique school environment that awakens her creative potential, and her new friends become like a second family. However, as she uncovers more about the dark side of the school and struggles with its curriculum, she questions whether Dickensen Academy is truly where she belongs.
When tragedy strikes, Autumn must learn to believe in her own power and stand up to her greatest fear or risk having her memories destroyed to protect the school’s secrets. Caught between secrets and dreams, can she find her true self?
Clues to the secret existed from day one, yet they appeared to belong to separate puzzles. Most students either missed these signs or chose to ignore them. We were busy acclimating—as the faculty called it—to a new environment. Some outsiders might call what they did to us those initial weeks a form of brainwashing or fostering a cult-like mentality.
But not me.
I agreed with Principal Locke. We weren’t ready. We needed time to separate from our families and become a cohesive group. And some of us, myself included, even needed a little nudge to accept the invitation. If someone had told us the truth on Day One why they’d brought us to Dickensen Academy, we would have never believed it. We’d think they were crazy. Or worse, we’d turn around and run back home. But if we left, we would have missed out on something extraordinary. Something worth the wait.
Dickensen Academy is Christine’s debut YA novel. After graduating from the University of Washington, she earned her MBA at the University at Albany. She honed her technical writing skills in marketing and consulting but attributes the creative part of the process to her passion for reading.
When she isn’t reading or writing, Christine can often be found running, skiing, or hiking. She lives in Newcastle, Washington, with her supportive husband, two avid teen readers, and their energetic wheaten terriers.
So, tell us bit about yourself
I’m a debut author who lives in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, fourteen-year-old daughter, twelve-year-old son, and two wheaten terrier puppies. I’ve been fortunate to stay home for the past decade to focus on my family, but as the kids have gotten older, I’ve had more time to devote to writing.
Tell us about your book?
Dickensen Academy is a young adult book about a girl who is selected to go a boarding school known for their fine arts program. Once she gets there, she learns the faculty is hiding an unbelievable secret. Although there is an interesting fantasy/paranormal element, the novel is more of a coming of age book where a girl blossoms in this new environment while struggling for independence from her family. It is a perfect bridge between MG and YA with the focus on the freshman year of high school
Give us an insight into your main character.
Autumn is a freshman in high school. At the beginning, she has low self-confidence caused by living with a very controlling father who always compares her to her “perfect” older brother. As the book progresses, she needs to learn to overcome her desire to please her father and learn to please herself.
Is this book part of a series?
I wrote this book as a standalone because the advice I received from experts was to wait and see how it was received by readers. However, my readers have been clamoring for a sequel, so they can follow Autumn through her high school years, so I’m working on that now. I had always envisioned it as Book 1 of a four-part series,
How long have you been writing?
I got the fiction writing bug about four years ago. Prior to then, my personal writing was limited to journaling and writing an annual holiday letter. I honed my writing skills (albeit not very creative) as a marketer, a human performance consultant, and an insurance adjuster.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I’m somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. I always have a high-level outline when I begin, but I usually get so excited to start a new project that I take off writing. The more I write, and the more I get to know my characters, I continue to add details to the outline, so ideally by the time I get to that part in the book, I have a good idea of what I need to include in a particular scene
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I’m a numbers person. I like to keep track of my increasing (and later decreasing) word counts. When I am drafting, I write the number of new words on a wall calendar at the end of each day. Usually I have a monthly goal (rather than a daily one) since my family responsibilities vary day to day. I tend to overwrite, so when I’m editing, I get the same satisfaction from cutting words as I work down to an appropriate word count.
What’s a perfect writing day?
After I get the kids off to school around seven, I write a couple of hours before going to the gym. Afterwards, I write a couple more hours at a coffee shop then come home and walk the dogs. When the kids return home, they miraculously don’ t need me, so I write until dinner. Unfortunately, this perfect day doesn’t happen often.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Hang out with my kids, watch a movie with my husband, hike with the pups, and read when I have a moment of free time alone. Our favorite family activity is skiing in the mountains.
Do you have any specific advice for aspiring writers?
Find a critique group, educate yourself, and immerse yourself in the writing community (local or online).
Christine Grabowski will be awarding $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.