Welcome to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS. At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about any sport that interests them. We look forward to the day when the words, "You play like a girl," is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sporty Author Interview with Paula Stokes

I am always excited when I'm able to interview an author, but after reading THE ART OF LAINEY I'm so in love with Paula that I squealed when she tweeted my happy review of LAINEY on The YA Club. I'd heard it was incredible from multiple sources that I trust. Even that it was one of the best contemporary books of nailing high school, and yet, when I saw the cover I didn't think this book could be for me. When I finally read it, I knew I would read anything Paula Stokes wrote. She's that good.

From Goodreads: Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?  

Here's my 30 second review so we can get to the interview:
I adored Lainey and Bee and Micah. Lainey was tough but vulnerable, and her journey to get back her ex…using Tso’s The Art of War, is brilliant. I wish I’d written this book. Read it in a day. I have a soft spot of summer books (think Sarah Dessen) and this one was perfect. The summer job, missing friends, deadly pancakes, a book to save all, and to make it even better, Lainey is a kick a** soccer player. 

RH: Lainey is a talented soccer player, one who could play collegiately. Do you play soccer, yourself?
PS: I played soccer from second grade (that's actually the church team I played for mentioned in the book) up until tenth grade. For my junior and senior year, I focused on tennis, so instead of soccer I played tennis in the fall and managed our boys' tennis team in the spring.

RH: Could you tell us about the extracurricular activities you were involved in growing up?
PS: I started playing soccer when I was seven and then added basketball to that mix when I was in fourth grade. It's funny, I went from being the tall-girl center to being the point guard a couple of years later when everyone else caught up to me in height. I started working out at a gym when I was twelve and have done so consistently for over twenty years. I tried out for tennis as a freshman, made varsity, and realized I had a natural aptitude. Tennis was my primary focus throughout high school.

In addition to sports, I did academic competitions and also spent a lot of time going to rock concerts and music festivals. I was really entrenched in the sports, academic, and music worlds at my high school--a geek-jock-rocker, if you will ;) After high school I got into stuff like hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing with my brother and now there's basically nothing sporty I won't try if given the opportunity.

RH: It's funny how we grow at such different rates. I used to be tall, as well. Now I'm exact average (5'6") I love the geek-jock-rocker image of you in high school:) I rock climb, as well. (Living for three years in Utah has me hooked.)
I appreciated that you had a YA character not dying to jump the next boy who walks by. Bianca (or Bee) isn’t looking for a relationship and seems comfortable in her own body. This contrasted well with Lainey’s occasional struggles (cover those freckles!) Although the cover is a bit deceiving, Lainey is a bigger girl. Tall and strong, and she doesn’t always feel confident in her body. Could you talk about her body image, how Jason sometimes made her feel, and how she came to terms with who she is?

PS: Lainey mentions this feeling a couple times in the book, including the part you referenced on page 91 where she's trying to playfully punch Micah and later on 166 when she belches and says Jason would've told her to "quit being a dude."

Most of these flashes of "I'm not girly enough" come from Jason needing her to always fulfill the traditional feminine role in their relationship, and subtly putting her in her place when she doesn't. But that's Jason's problem stemming from his insecurities, not Lainey's problem. I think aside from hating her freckles (and most of us hate at least one thing about our looks, don't we?), she is pretty comfortable in her own skin except when someone she cares about (Jason, Kendall) is belittling her. So really, her struggle is to realize that her own thoughts are just as valid as the opinions of others, something she gradually learns over time after her popular friend and boyfriend leave her and she's forced to think for herself throughout the book.

I wrote Lainey to be built like Jennifer Lawrence before she was cast in The Hunger Games. A few people I know were like: "But Jennifer is so...big." Okay, first of all, just because you can't see all her bones through her skin does not make her "big." And second, as someone who struggled with body image and eating disorders in the past, I really resent the "how dare a YA heroine not be dainty!" mentality, as if her worth is inversely proportional to her weight. I intentionally made Lainey a girl who eats even when she's stressed and wrinkles up her nose at diet soda because I wanted to show readers that you can be popular and desirable and happy without resorting to starving yourself.

RH: I saw on your blog that you kayak and hike. Could you share your favorite hike and/or kayaking experience?

PS: Last year I went to Baja California for a week-long kayaking trip in the Sea of Cortez. It was amazing. We kayaked a few hours each day and then snorkeled and relaxed in the afternoon. Being out in the open ocean with the waves crashing over the hull of your boat is such an intense feeling. You feel very powerful and yet very small at the same time.

I have tons of favorite hikes but I'll name one everyone should consider doing at least once--The Angel's Landing hike at Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah. You have to get up and go early because this trail gets crowded by late morning. It's a strenuous climb that requires using safety chains for the final ascent, but the view is incredible and the feeling of accomplishment when you make it to the top is almost unparalleled. Bonus: last time I did it there were many adorbs chipmunks running around the summit.

RH: That sounds incredible. I dream about trips like that when my babies are older. Zion's Nat'l Park is one of my favorite. Mystery Canyon is my favorite hike/canyoneering in the park. I haven't done Angel's Landing, but will plan on it for my next trip.You’ve written YA mystery set in Renaissance Venice, contemporary soccer girl Lainey, and your new book, LIARS, Inc. comes out this month.

From Goodreads: Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called "Captivating to the very end," Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

RH: I can't wait for this one. I'm also excited to read a male POV from you. Could you give us a hint of what subject will you tackle next?

PS: I'm super-excited for VICARIOUS and BAD LUCK CHARM, both of which will release in the first half of 2016.
VICARIOUS is the story of Winter, a eighteen-year-old Korean stunt girl who engages in adrenaline sports and other risky activities so that recordings of her neural impulses can be sold like virtual reality video games. Her sister Rose, another recorder, goes missing and Winter has to search the real world and Rose's neural recordings for clues to find her. It's a dark story, but great for fans of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, and the movie INCEPTION.

BAD LUCK CHARM is the story of Maguire, a sixteen-year-old girl who thinks she's cursed, that people who get too close to her end up injured or dead. She tries to insulate herself but then her mom forces her to join a club at school. Maguire ends up on the tennis team where she meets Jordy, a boy tennis prodigy who doesn't believe in bad luck. The two of them team up to test her curse. This one is great for fans of THE ART OF LAINEY or SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE.

RH: Ooh, those sounds really good. I'm especially looking forward to BAD LUCK CHARM. We'll have to add both of those books to our tenndatabase. Could you share some of your favorite (sporty or not) reads?

Lightning Round
last book you read--Falling into Place
last thing you ate--Thai food--garlic pepper chicken and rice
last movie/show you watched--The Hurt Locker
favorite sport to play--hiking/kayaking/tennis
favorite sport to watch--American Ninja Warrior :)
person you’d most like to meet--Anyone from American Ninja Warrior :)

RH: I'm a huge American Ninja Warrior fan. I used to work at the climbing gym in Provo where Isaac Caldaiero trained, so it was great to see him in ANW!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the sporty girl community?

PS: Keep being sporty! You'll live longer, be less stressed, and feel great in whatever clothes you choose to wear <3

RH: Paula, thank you so much for being here on Sporty Girl Books! And thank you for recognizing the need for sporty books and writing real characters we can relate to. I can't wait to read LIARS, Inc. and everything else you write. If you're ever in the Raleigh area, I'd be happy to give you a belay at my local climbing gym;)

AUTHOR BIO: Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of several YA novels, most recently THE ART OF LAINEY and LIARS, INC. Her writing has been translated into nine foreign languages. When she's not writing, she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.


  1. I LOVE this interview, Robin. Thank you Paula for visiting Sporty Girl Books. If you're ever in Maine we should connect over some hiking! Congrats on your exciting list of upcoming books. Our readers can get a sample of THE ART OF LAINEY here! http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062238429/the-art-of-lainey/web-sampler

  2. Great interview, Paula and Robin! I love the discussion about body language and acceptance of oneself, inner and outer. Sounds like both your books are great reads!

  3. Fantastic interview. *adds all the books to my tbr*

  4. Outstanding interview! Paula really do make Max come alive.
    I love when there is always something strange around the corner you didnt expect!

    ---Jonas, Sweden