The Debut Dish: Kes Trester, Janelle Milanes, Maggie Ann Martin, Tiffany Pitcock, Carl Hackman, & Candace Ganger (+ Giveaways)

September 17, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 4

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Kes Trester (A Dangerous Year), Janelle Milanes (The Victoria In My Head), Maggie Ann Martin (The Big F), Tiffany Pitcock (Just Friends), Carl Hackman (Gerald and the Amulet of Zonrach), and Candace Ganger (The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash).


A Dangerous Year by Kes Trester
September 26, 2017 from Curiosity Quills Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Seventeen-year-old Riley Collins has grown up in some of the world’s most dangerous cities, learning political strategies from her ambassador dad and defensive skills from his security chief. The only thing they didn’t prepare her for: life as an American teenager.

After an incident forces her to leave her Pakistani home, Riley is recruited by the State Department to attend Harrington Academy, one of the most elite boarding schools in Connecticut. The catch: she must use her tactical skills to covertly keep an eye on Hayden Frasier, the daughter of a tech billionaire whose new code-breaking spyware has the international intelligence community in an uproar.

Disturbing signs begin to appear that Riley’s assignment wasn’t the walk in the park she’d been promised. Now, Riley must fight for her life and Hayden’s, as those around her reveal themselves to be true friends or the ultimate betrayers.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Intrigue, danger, and possibly murder.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
When Riley shows up at the MMA gym at her new American high school expecting to find other girls to spar with, but it’s only guys. It’s the first time she’s felt at home since she left the embassy in Karachi, and the familiar setting makes her a bit bold. Whether that emotion is justified when she faces off against Sam Hudson, the captain of the team, is another story.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was on vacation with my extended family. My nephew Devin had just asked what was going on with my writing when my agent called. I couldn’t have written the scene any better if I tried!

What’s your favorite junk food?
I like to switch it up, but right now I can’t get enough of a chocolate slice of heaven called Bark Thins. It sounds like a dog treat, I know, but try the coconut almond. Guaranteed to fuel at least 1,000 words!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
This is going to sound REALLY weird, but I live in a haunted house. I have a small gold angel figurine that came flying out of nowhere one day to land at my feet. Things are always appearing and disappearing around here, but the angel has stuck around for about ten years now. I keep her on my desk to remind me that kindness can be found in the most unexpected places (even from Ida, our resident ghost!).

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The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes
September 19, 2017 from Simon Pulse
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

From debut author Janelle Milanes comes a hilarious and heartfelt tale of the spectacular things that can happen when you go after what you really want.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Music, stage fright, romance, dreams.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It involves karaoke and chicken cutlets, but that’s about all I can reveal! Toward the end of the book, there’s also a big climactic kissing scene in a beautiful NYC setting. Unfortunately, I can’t provide any more detail because all of my favorite scenes are spoiler-heavy!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I’m a teacher, so I was sitting in my classroom surrounded by fourth graders when I got the email from my agent. The subject line said “OFFER” in all caps, and I almost threw up from excitement then and there. I couldn’t call my agent for another twenty minutes because I had to find someone to cover my class while I stepped out of the room.

What’s your favorite junk food?
When I’m in the mood for something savory, I reach for Cool Ranch Doritos. For something sweet, cookies and cream ice cream is my go-to.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
For some reason, when I get bored I like to draw eyes…? I know, it’s strange and a little creepy. So on my desk you will usually find an assortment of sticky notes with an eye drawn on each one.

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The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin
August 29, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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Danielle effed up. Big time.

Danielle’s plans for the future were all figured out…until she failed senior English and her single college application was rejected. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because, honestly, who applies to a safety school when your mom is a semi-famous “college psychic”?!

Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State—and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar. That is, until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden boy next door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love, and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.

One thing’s for sure: This time, failure is not an option.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Friendships, Failure, Future, Finding Love

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Any time that my characters Porter and Danielle have a particularly banter-y scene, I’m so game for it. One of my favorites involves a drunken game of Eye Spy at Danielle’s very first house party (where she has no business being). We get a glimpse into their chemistry and Porter’s soft side when he has to take care of Dani who has been drinking for the first time ever.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was actually in New York visiting my sister! My whole family was together (which is pretty rare) and I was at a Buffalo Wild Wings in White Plains, New York. I got an email from my lovely editor saying that she and the director of Swoon Reads wanted to talk about my book. I scheduled a call for the next day, and the rest is history!

What’s your favorite junk food?
It’s a tie between Cheetos and mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I actually use the Reese’s minis as my reward for finishing a certain amount of words while writing or editing! :P

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have two baby cacti on my desk (named Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth) and they are planted together in a shiny gold pot.

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Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
August 1, 2017 from Swoon Reads
Add to Goodreads | Author Twitter

A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Fake friendship, real love.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s this scene the night before Christmas where Chance and Jenny are talking about Chance’s parent while they sit in the glow of the Christmas lights. I love everything about that scene.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was sitting at my desk (which I hardly EVER used) in my dorm room when I got the email.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Pretzels. I love them!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pencil holder shaped like a hot pink dumpster.


Gerald and the Amulet of Zonrach by Carl Hackman
May 16, 2017 from Immortal Works
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

In the realm of Wyverndawn, a wizard’s height is the mark of his power, so shrinking an entire inch is disastrous for Gerald. Looking to gain a few inches, Gerald attempts to create a village landmark using his superior wizarding skills. But the spell he bought — from a guy who knows a guy — is a tad more powerful than he anticipates. The resulting earthquake, hurricane and escape of a very dangerous wizard from prison really weren’t part of the plan. To add insult to injury, a red-faced Gerald finds himself banished from his village along with the one inch demotion; two more and he’ll join his father as a Royal Equine Poop Disposal Coordinator. Gerald’s hopes of returning home hinge on repairing the devastation he caused and thwarting the evil wizard’s plans of grasping Wyverndawn for his own. Failure could mean Gerald’s next spell might well be his last.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Gerald’s in deep trouble; again.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I have many, but there is one where Gerald is learning about the history of dragons from a trainer. In this scene you can see how his personality is changing, for the better. He was never a selfish boy, but he always took shortcuts and looked for the easy way to achieve something. To be a dragon companion he will have to learn the hard way.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I had just sat down at my desk to work on another novel when the email arrived. I ran into the bedroom to let my wife know, but obviously first thing in the morning is not the best time to be so excited as she thought we were being burgled, and her reaction to being woken by a slightly deranged husband was not entirely unreasonable.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Fish and Chips from Yorkshire, but I can’t get any over here which is very frustrating. I used to love to sit on the moors with freshly fried fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and look out over the countryside.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
It is a thirteen inch carving of a dragon. It tends to look me in the eye and I’m sure it can tell when I’m procrastinating rather then working. I keep telling him it’s research, but I’m sure he knows that I’m not being entirely truthful.


The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger
July 25, 2017 from St. Martin’s Griffin
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Collision, Lies, Loss, Heartbreak, Hope

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a scene in the skating rink basement where things heat up between Birdie & Bash for the first time. I’m pretty partial to their banter because it reminds me of myself through the (awkward) high school romance years.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Sitting on my couch! I’d had THE WORST day (and even ordered an extra large latte that morning), and then mid-morning, I received a text from my agent asking if I was free to talk. Turns out, it was THE call with THE offer.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I’m not huge on junk food anymore, but when I do, I’m a fool for donuts/doughnuts.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A cat.

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4 Responses to “The Debut Dish: Kes Trester, Janelle Milanes, Maggie Ann Martin, Tiffany Pitcock, Carl Hackman, & Candace Ganger (+ Giveaways)”

  1. danielle hammelef

    I want to read The Big F because I have a college freshman right now and this sounds insightful and emotional to me. I want to read A Dangerous Year because I want to see America through the eyes of a foreign teen as well as enjoy the mystery and suspense. I want to read The Victoria in My Head because I am a musician and enjoy reading about life in the spotlight as well as romance and acceptance of self stories.

  2. Sam@WLABB

    Love this feature. I made a huge effort this year to read a lot of debuts, and there have been so many exceptional ones. I have to get the Big F back from my co-blogger, because it looks great, and I have Victoria coming up soon on my TBR. I hope to read A Dangerous Year too. It sounds like it could be a nice change of pace for me.
    Sam@WLABB recently posted…Sundays with Sam – The Sunday Post

  3. John Smith

    These look like interesting, well-done books! “The Big F” has an especially fun cover!

  4. Summer

    I’m excited to read The Victoria In My Head because I’m hoping with her parents there will be some Cuban culture, and I love music so that aspect of the plot appeals to me.

    I want to read The Big F for the romance with the boy next door and there’s a bookstore involved, both of those things generally are my kind of thing in a book.

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