Sunday, September 29, 2013

Back to School Blog Tour: An Interview with Cassie Mae and Linda Budzinkski

It's dueling author interview day here on the blog, and I'm excited to be chatting with HOW TO DATE A NERD's Cassie Mae and THE FUNERAL SINGER's Linda Budzinkski. First a little about these lovely ladies and their brand new Swoon Romance book babies!

About Cassie Mae

Cassie Mae is a nerd to the core from Utah, who likes to write about other nerds who find love. Her angel children and perfect husband fan her and feed her grapes while she clacks away on the keyboard. Then she wakes up from that dream world and manages to get a few words on the computer while the house explodes around her. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with the youth in her community as a volleyball and basketball coach, or searching the house desperately for chocolate.

Cassie Mae is an bestselling author of the teen contemporary romance novel REASONS I FELL FOR THE FUNNY FAT FRIEND, which she self-published. In addition to publishing with Swoon Romance, she is published by Random House Flirt.


Zoe has a great pair of legs, perky boobs, and wears exactly what she needs to show it all off. She works hard for the easy sleazy ‘you only wish you were me’ reputation, burying who she really is—an all-out nerd.

The only time Zoe gets to be herself is when she hides under her comforter to read X-Men comics, sending jealousy stabs at everyone who attends Comic-Con. Keeping up her popular rep is too important, and she’s so damn insecure to care about the consequences. But when Zoe’s sister takes her car for a ‘crash and burn into a tree’ joyride, her parents get her a replacement. A manual. Something she doesn’t know how to operate, but her next door neighbor Zak sure as heck does.

Zak’s a geek to the core, shunned by everyone in school for playing Dungeons and Dragons at lunch and wearing “Use the Force” t-shirts. And Zoe’s got it bad for the boy. Only Zak doesn’t want Popular Zoe. He wants Geek Zoe.

She has to shove her insecurities and the fear of dropping a few rungs on the social ladder aside to prove to Zak who she really is and who she wants to be… if she can figure it out herself to get it -- and her -- in the process.

About Linda Budzinkski

Linda Acorn Budzinski decided in the second grade that she wanted to be a “Paperback Writer,” just like in the Beatles song. She majored in journalism in college and now works in marketing and communications. She spent 18 years at a trade association in the funeral service industry, where she discovered that funeral directors are some of the bravest and most compassionate people on earth. Linda lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Joe, and their chihuahua, Demitria. She has two step-daughters, Eris and Sarah. THE FUNERAL SINGER is her debut novel. She is represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc.

THE FUNERAL SINGER is Linda Budzinski's first novel.


Being a funeral singer was a dead-end job until it led her to him ...

Seventeen-year-old Melanie Martin has witnessed her share of lame eulogies and uninspired epitaphs while singing part-time at her dad's funeral home. She's determined to be more than a funeral singer, more than just someone's "beloved wife" or "loving mother." 

When Mel's impromptu rendition of "Amazing Grace" at a local rock star's graveside service goes viral on YouTube, she becomes an Internet sensation, gains thousands of fans and followers, and snags a hot rock star boyfriend--Zed Logan, bass player for The Grime. 

But instant fame isn’t easy—and neither is love. Especially when Mel realizes she’s falling for another guy—one who may just want her heart more than her voice 

Tell us a little about your writer's journey so far:

CASSIE: It’s been crazysauce. I’ll try to keep it short…Lots of writing and waiting the first year. Lots of writing and waiting the second year. Then a bunch of contracts and deadlines the third year where I wonder what happened to the waiting part!

Linda: Long story short: 10 years of blood, sweat, and tears, followed by a year of close-but-no-cigar (and a few more tears), followed by a “Yes!” (and still more tears).

Okay, let's hear your Twitter Pitch! (140 characters or less.)

Linda: Part-time funeral singer becomes overnight star when "Amazing Grace" video goes viral, but one wrong move can put the nail in fame's coffin.

CASSIE: No. Haha! I kid. I do hate these things though ;)

Closet nerd Zoe has the hots for her Star Wars obsessed neighbor and must decide if he’s worth sacrificing her uber-popular reputation.

What inspired you to write this book? How is it a book only you could write?

CASSIE: I was bored out of my mind, writing only fantasy at the time and had no new ideas, and I spotted my Harry Potter Scene-It game and said, I’m going to play till I get an answer wrong! Four hours later, I was still going strong and hubby came home and said he loves how geeky I am. And I thought, yanno, I should write a nerd love story.

Linda: A number of years ago, I was at an Eastern Pennsylvania SCBWI conference, and the keynote speaker was T.A. Barron, author of the very popular middle-grade Merlin series. He told us about a project he was working on featuring everyday heroes, and he made the comment that kids and teens today have a very skewed concept of heroism.

That remark really resonated with me, and I decided on the drive home from that event to write a book about a girl who becomes a “hero” both in the pop-culture sense and in the real-world sense, and the differences between those two forms of heroism.

At the time, I was working for a non-profit organization in the funeral industry, and I had becomes friends with many funeral directors I consider everyday heroes, so that seemed like a natural setting for the story.

What's your favorite thing about writing?

Linda: Having written. (Hat tip to Dorothy Parker.)

CASSIE: Changes all the time. Sometimes it’s my characters, sometimes the plot, sometimes the opportunity to escape into a world that’s not mine… I love my readers though. I think that’s the most rewarding thing. To build connections with people around the world.

What's your least favorite thing?

CASSIE: Changes all the time, lol! Sometimes it’s my characters that won’t speak up when I need them to, sometimes the plot holes I can’t seem to fill, and sometimes it’s when it takes up so much headspace I don’t realize I’m putting my pants on backwards when I’m trying to get ready for the day ;)

Linda: Actually writing.

Now it's time to brag a little--What do you love most about your book?

Linda: I love that even though I’ve read it at least a dozen times, I still cry a little at the end. And that’s about all I can say without revealing spoilers.

CASSIE: How dang hard I worked to get it where it is. How to Date a Nerd is my baby. It’s been written and rewritten so many times I have about ten different folders for it. I spent so much time making it the book it is. Went through 3 Revise & Resubmits during querying. It’s been stretched, pulled, plotted, and DRAINED me. But I look at the finished product now and I’m so proud of it, because I know where it started. I saw myself grow as a writer, and because I spent so much time with my main characters, they became so very real to me. So this book will always be the one that started it all, even if it wasn’t the first book I ever wrote.

What has surprised you most about publishing post-agent (in other words, something unpublished writers may not know about how the process goes after you get an agent)?

CASSIE: That submission is a lot like querying. You wait A LOT. And not all offers are worth it, even though sometimes you just want to take what comes at you because it means you’ll get published. Nerd received multiple offers, but I had to restrain my antsy fingers and wait for the RIGHT one.

Okay, now a little about you. (And yes, I stole these questions from In the Actor's Studio with James Lipton.)

What is your favorite word?

Linda: Feckless. Such a stinging insult, yet so underused!

CASSIE: Nerdiculous (It’s a word, I promise)

What is your least favorite word?

CASSIE: Booger

Linda: Uvula. I don’t like the sound of it.

What turns you on?

CASSIE: Hubby in a Ninja Turtles shirt.

Linda: Smart humor.

What turns you off?

Linda: Crass humor.

CASSIE: Boogers

What sound or noise do you love?

Linda: My chihuahua’s snoring.

CASSIE: The noise my Facebook IM makes :)

What sound or noise do you hate?

CASSIE: My alarm clock.

Linda: The sound of a Redskins fan cheering. (I’m all about the Eagles.)

What profession, other than your own, would you most like to attempt?

Linda: I’d love to work on Broadway … anything that didn’t require me to be on stage. Set designer? Director? Janitor? I just love the atmosphere surrounding theater.

CASSIE: Graphic design. Or editing. Or marketing. Pretty much all the other publishing jobs out there besides author, haha!

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear G-d say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

CASSIE: “Sup?”

Linda: “Come on in and join the party … Marvin Gaye and Elvis will be first up on the main stage.”

Finally, what's the one question you've always wanted to answer in an interview? (And of course, you have to answer it!)

Linda: Question: Who would play Mel if THE FUNERAL SINGER were made into a movie?

Answer: A complete unknown—a smart, strong, talented girl with an amazing voice who would be discovered (of course) through a chance performance that was videotaped and went viral. 

CASSIE: Hmm… I don’t know! I’ll keep in the theme of Nerd here and ask myself a nerdy question: So, Cassie, who’s your favorite X-Men character?

Well, if we go female, I like Rogue (but only the cartoon Rogue, not the movie Rogue). And favorite male X-Men, Havok (both in movie and cartoon…though Gambit is a CLOSE second.)

And I’d invite anyone else to share their fave X-Men character too :)

Alright, peeps, you've got your marching orders from Cassie! Who's your favorite X-Men/Woman? And don't forget to add both these ladies' books to your TBR lists!

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