Saturday, May 21, 2016

2 Paula Stokes, author of GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE, on practicing better self-care

We're delighted to have Paula Stokes with us to chat about her latest novel GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE.

Paula, what book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE is a great choice for fans of Tamara Ireland Stone's EVERY LAST WORD, Morgan Matson's SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE, Miranda Kenneally's BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE, and Kerri Winfrey's LOVE AND OTHER ALIEN EXPERIENCES.

How long did you work on GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE?

GATU is the fastest I've ever gone from concept to publication. I got the idea in February of 2014, pitched it in March, sold it in May, and started writing in July. I spent about ten weeks on the first draft and then sent it to beta-readers for a month while I worked on another project. Then I revised GATU in November and sent it to my editor in December. Then, about one year after pitching it, the real work (AKA editorial revision) began. I re-wrote almost half the book in April and May of 2015 and we went to copy-edits at the beginning of June. So the total elapsed time was about a year, but half of that was me writing and revising and the other half was when crit partners or my editor had the manuscript.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

The first thing I learned was to use my time more wisely. Revising GATU and VICARIOUS simultaneously last spring/summer was really hard on me--physically and psychologically. A smarter writer would have used her downtime in January and February of 2015 to get caught up on life, get ahead on LIARS, INC. promo, and to relax a little. Possibly even to do a little pre-revising while I awaited edit letters. What did I do? I wrote a freaking new adult novel. I love my NA book, but I'm going to be self-publishing it and there really was no pressing need to crank it out in the only period of downtime I had last year.

The second thing I learned is that "thinking time" counts as work and that you can't hurry revisions. When my editor gave me back the GATU manuscript and said she loved the characters and the end but that basically the whole plot needed to be reworked, I cried. But I agreed with her. Too bad I had no idea how to fix it. And as each day passed, I wound myself tighter and tighter into a ball of anxiety. I mentally flogged myself for all the time I was wasting. But I wasn't wasting time. I was working out the problems--consciously, subconsciously, perhaps even unconsciously while I slept. And even though spending a week doing nothing but thinking meant I had one less week to implement the revisions, I don't think it could've have happened any other way.

What do you hope readers will take away from GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE?

For some people this will simply be a swoony romance book about two tennis players in therapy and how they support each other while they work through their separate issues, and that's okay. But I wrote GATU for readers who are struggling with anxiety or PTSD or other mental health issues. I doubt most readers are going to feel like they're bad luck to people around them, but I think a lot of us might sometimes need a reminder that there is always hope, that there are people who care about us who will help us if we reach out, that we don't have to be dying to deserve help, that we are stronger than we think, and that the Universe works in mysterious ways. Those are my main take-away points.

What are you working on now?

So many things :D VICARIOUS releases in August and I just turned in the first draft of the sequel. I'll be revising that along with a 2017 contemp over the next few months. I'm also hoping to release that new adult book I wrote in the fall or early next year. Finally, I'm kicking around a couple ideas for adult mysteries and I'd love to write one of those this year. (But not until I've completed my books under contract and taken a short break--I have learned my lesson!)

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Whether you're published or not, start practicing better self-care. Writers, myself included, are notoriously bad at this. If you're feeling like a big hunk of horrible failure, that is not the time to read your Goodreads reviews or feedback from your super-critical beta-reader. If you're so exhausted that you're practically falling asleep driving, that is not when you should be agreeing to do more interviews, blog hops, and beta-reads. Get enough sleep, eat better, drink more water, learn to unplug occasionally, learn to say no (or at least "yes, but not now"), set more reasonable goals, cut yourself some slack. Remember, writing is supposed to be joyous and liberating. Never forget why you started doing it in the first place.


Girl Against the Universe
by Paula Stokes
Released 5/17/2016

From the author of The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. comes a fresh, contemporary story about one girl’s tragic past and a boy who convinces her that maybe her luck is about to change. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han.

Maguire knows she’s bad luck. No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch. But then on her way out of her therapist’s office, she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star, who wants to help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away, but staying away may be harder than she thought.

Purchase Girl Against the Universe at Amazon
Purchase Girl Against the Universe at IndieBound
View Girl Against the Universe on Goodreads


Paula Stokes is the author of several novels, most recently Girl Against the Universe and Liars, Inc., the latter of which received a starred review from Kirkus. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.


Have you had a chance to read GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE yet? Do you count 'thinking time' as work? Are you doing what you should be to take care of yourself? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Anisaa, Sam, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, and Kristin


  1. That was a fast turnaround on that book.
    Taking time to stay mentally and physically fit is important. The ride is no fun if we're a mess for it.

  2. Fantastic interview, and yes you author types tend to be bad at self care so work it into the schedule too! Maybe even work that into the daily goals and to do lists.

    And GATU is a wonderful book with both serious part and swoony part and the perfect balance between both!


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