Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Just Another...Book Crush (#16): Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley (Interview & Giveaway!)

Just Another...Book Crush! is a monthly feature where I invite an author whose book I've recently reviewed and loved to write a guest post and share their three latest book crushes. It's a feature I'm starting mostly because I'm often very shy to approach authors, especially ones I admire, and also because I love reading guest posts since, more often than not, they convince me to pick up a book even when the reviewer cannot. 

I'M ALIVE! I moved into college on Monday and ever since I've been busy, busy, busy. You'd think I'd have a bit of time to just breathe and figure out all this college stuff, but NO. I've been thrown into Orientation and running around campus, finding buildings, and in general plastering a smile on my face in case I run into my future Best Friend For Life has been exhausting. So forgive my minimal online presence and, instead, welcome Joy N. Hensley to the blog! I looooved Joy's debut novel, Rites of Passage which I'll hopefully be reviewing soon (hopefully!). When I approached her to write a guest post for the blog she mentioned that she'd prefer an interview instead so, forgive my lack of creative questions, but I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. 

Also, Joy was sweet enough to send me amazing swag for her upcoming novel along with extras which I will be giving away below. Since it's my birthday today I suppose you can treat this as a bit of a birthday giveaway! ;)
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died. So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so matter how much she wants him. As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.At any cost. Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.
1. First and foremost, thank you for agreeing to participate, Joy! I'm so glad you were able to make it onto the blog today. I knew next-to-nothing about you prior to your debut but after reading Rites of Passage I found out that you yourself had been to military school before. It is evident throughout your novel as the story and experiences feel so authentic. Were any of the scenes from Rites of Passage similar to your own life? Could you explain the process of fictionalizing a real experience and molding facts from your life into this tale? 

Thanks for having me, Keertana! I looked over your questions and realized I was going to have to take a little bit of time to think about them and actually craft some answers. It was actually a learning experience for me. I had to think past the basics of Rites of Passage and dig for the answers. I did go to military school, on a dare, in fact. There are a lot of scenes in Rites of Passage that could every easily have taken place. Near the beginning there's a day-long event called Dedication Day where the recruits have to show what they've learned in their "boot camp" week. I took a lot of that from the school I went to. I'm sure other military schools do something similar, but I'm not sure when in the training it happens. There's another scene in the book later on where the drill sergeant is doing some physical training with the recruits in the hallway. He turns the lights out and plays a song--the song I chose for that scene was very specific and that type of training was done by my cadre.

It's important to note, as you did in your question, though, that this book is definitely fiction. I survived my military school dare, however I didn't thrive. Basically, when I started to write Rites of Passage, I wanted to tell the story of how I *wish* I had done, and Sam is the character that embodies that. Were there nice upperclassmen? Yes. Attractive ones? Definitely. There were also cadets who didn't live up to the uniform and ones who still (after forty years of being co-ed) believed that females didn't belong on campus. Were there secret societies at my school? I don't know. There were whispers of them, as there are at many old, traditional universities. Would I call them out? Heck no! :-) But all of these facets went into creating this book, Denmark Military Academy, and the cadets who inhabit the novel. Is any one character true to life? I don't think so, not 100%, probably not even 50%. But, as with any book written by any writer, there were people that I drew on for inspiration and character building.

2. What stood out to me the most about Rites of Passage was the overwhelming feminist manifesto throughout. Sam, as a woman, is discriminated against for attempting to enter a predominantly male society and career. Was it your intent to write Rites of Passage with such a strong feminist focus or did you rely on experiences of female soldiers who have also undergone similar forms of discrimination in their field? More importantly, do you feel as if Sam's determination to push through the dire circumstances she finds herself in is due to her own sheer will or was it an intentional shout-out to women's rights? 

Wow, you're using some strong language in this question! I'm not sure I'd say feminist manifesto so much as feminist undertones , maybe? My intent was just to write a kick-ass female character, you know?

I didn't want Sam to have to depend on boys to get her through. I wanted to write a character who was okay with herself, who didn't need a boyfriend to feel important. I wanted to show how friendships in teen years are so much more important that relationships and how it's okay to not be dating all the time. Life can take us so many different places and while I love a good romance just as much as the next girl, it's important to see that we can love ourselves and be okay with ourselves. 

It's nice to be loved and held and kissed and swept off my feet, but I want someone who believes in me, too. Someone who understands that I need to accomplish things on my own and I don't necessarily need to be rescued.  As a teacher, I see so many girls who think they aren't worth anything because they don't have boyfriends. 

But that's not what life is, you know? 

Life is about finding out who you are and who you want to become. If it takes putting relationships on the back burner for awhile, that's okay.  Every single girl deserves to know that she is capable of whatever she dreams. She might need help, she might need friends along the way, but she can do anything!

3. Over the course of Rites of Passage Sam grows and changes, both mentally and physically as she finds herself training both harder and longer. Could you explain the process of creating Sam's growth arc--as it pertained to her military household, her blooming romance, and the brutal hazing she suffers? 

Sam's a pretty strong main character with pretty strong convictions about the way life should be. Throughout the book, I needed to make sure she questioned what she believed in. It's not enough to say "This is what I believe." You have to be able to answer the inevitable "Why?" that comes next. So for a character like Sam, I had to shake her to her core, which meant putting her through some pretty horrible things regarding her family and the hazing. She had to realize on her own that not everything is black and white, good and bad. There are gray areas to everything, but it's where you stand in the gray that makes you who you are. At the end of the novel, I hope it's clear that Sam understands the why--not only of her beliefs--but of the other characters' beliefs as well. 

4.  Lastly, I cannot help but ask: is there any possibility of a companion novel or sequel? What else can you tell us about your current projects? 

Right now Rites is a stand alone, but that doesn't mean there won't ever be a sequel or companion novel. How's that for a non-answer? :-)  Right now I'm working on my second book for Harper Teen called The Harder You Fall. I can't say much yet, but it takes place in the world of mixed martial arts.  

Thanks again for having me and for the great questions! Did I pass the test? :-) I hope everyone enjoys Rites of Passage.

Thank you so much, Joy! I don't doubt for a second that everyone is truly going to enjoy Rites of Passage--seriously, what a treat! :)


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  1. Great interview :)
    And it will calm down...eventually

  2. Hooray for college, I hope it all goes super well for you, hun!

    And how have I not heard of Rites of Passage until now? It sounds fantastic, thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

  3. It's good to know that you're settling in! It can be stressful, but you'll adjust in no time at all, I'm sure of it.

    I think the strong feminist undertones are exactly what will make this book endure the test of time. Also, I felt that there was room for a sequel and I'm glad we can at least hope to get one in the future.

  4. First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEERTANA! I hope you have a BLAST and get tons of new books and eat tons of cake!

    Second of all, I am completely envious of the fact that you are already in college while I don't get to move for another couple of days.

    THIRD OF ALL. Thank you SO much for sharing this with us. I have this one coming up on my review list soon (next week) and I have been a little worried about the intensity of the novel and this is soo incredibly reassuring! I LOVE that Joy agrees that relationships aren't as important as friendships and you should first and foremost always believe in yourself.

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic interview with us, Keertana! :D

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY once again!!

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  5. So glad you are settling in and getting use to things and of course, Happy Birthday!!
    I loved this novel, so darn good!

  6. HAPPY BIRTHDAY first of all!! I really hope you'll have a great time and that you'll have a great day! Also I'm sure that soon you'll get around at college and trust me people will be in lines waiting to be your BFFs! I'd be ;)

    Thank you so much for interviewing Joy! I loved her book but new nothing about her. So military school, well now I know how she got all the technical things right!
    Also thank you for the giveaway! (I'm not sure if it's INT. If not just delete my entry) ;)


  7. "Every single girl deserves to know that she is capable of whatever she dreams. She might need help, she might need friends along the way, but she can do anything!"

    My favourite quote of the interview. I think she comes out with some cracking answers and I think the statement about finding yourself and becoming you is much more important than romance. I had not heard of this novel before (Obviously missed your review) but I am now eager to get my hands on it.

    Despite you claiming not to ask some good questions, they really rocked in their depth and probe quality. I loved them.

    And so pleased to hear you are alive. I hope you are managing to have fun whilst settling in and running around everywhere. I remember settling into Uni well, all very hectic, but after a couple of months I imagine things will be much calmer, and the constant smiley face for everyone won't quite be needed! Continue to have fun!

  8. First, woo-hoo for college! I hope you love it as much as I did.

    Second, I've heard such good things about this story so color me intrigued. I don't know if I'd survive even the boot camp week. They'd drum me out in a heartbeat.

  9. This is one of the books I was most anticipating of the year!
    All my knoledge about a military school comes from an old movie of Hilary Duff, so I'd say I basically don't know a thing. But it's something that interests me and that I'd love to know more about, specially if the main character is a female kickass that has to find her way in a tipically male world.
    Awesome review and thank you for this giveaway!

    Ps. I've started my book blog, I'd really appreciate it if you wanted to come by and check it out! :)

  10. I really enjoyed college so I hope you enjoy it as much or more than I did!

    Oh this has me curious. I like the sound of the feminism and the kick-assery (is that a word? LOL) here.

    PS.. Happy Birthday!

  11. I have a copy of this I picked up at the ALA and I'm even more excited to read it after this interview! I'm happy to hear some of Joy's real life experiences find their way into the story and I'm sure it makes it feel more authentic. Great post ladies! :)

  12. First, Happy Birthday Keertana!! I understand your busy schedule in college, since I'm also going through the same. I've seen Rites Of Passage going around in blogosphere. I really need to get to it soon.
    Kick-ass female characters are the best. I would love to read about what Sam undergoes.
    It's really impressive that Joy had been to Military school. (: Loved all the answers, especially the 2nd one was the best. Wonderful post, Keertana!!

  13. HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEERTANA! I hope you have a great day and that you celebrate it with lots of books (!), cake and chocolate. ;) And good luck with going to the university! What a great experience!

    And wonderful interview! This book sounds so intriguing, and this has only increased my interest. Looking forward to giving it a try soon! Thanks for sharing! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

  14. Happy Birthday!!

    This does sound fabulous.

  15. "My intent was just to write a kick-ass female character, you know?"

    LOVE IT! I adored Sam something fierce, she's totally my hero. I would not have fared half as well in her situation, so I have a complete and utter girl crush on her.

    I've got all my fingers and toes crossed that a sequel might come our way at some point, but I'm super excited for The Harder You Fall!!!!

  16. Oh, and a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!!!!! Hope you have a fantastic day!

  17. This is such a great post Joy and Keertana, I only heard about this book today, but the more reviews and posts I read the more excited I get about giving it a go! :)

  18. I love the sound of this book, and the interview was great! A little more in depth than most. This does sound like it could be one of the great ones, too.

  19. I read a digital galley of this a couple of weeks ago and it is great book! If you know someone that is a military school cadet, in the military, a military veteran or a family member of someone in the military there is a contest to giveaway a signed copy of Rites of Passage at

  20. I'm dying to read this book!!
    I really like military books but I never read one involving a girl. I really can't wait to read it!

    Great interview btw and thanks for the giveaway. :D

  21. Happy late birthday!

    I always say this, but I LOVE these posts so much. You ask the most insightful questions, and I particularly adore Hensley's answers here. Your question about Sam being a feminist really stood out to me. I read Rites of Passage just after a book where the heroine was obsessed with her appearance and thought about it constantly, but Sam doesn't worry about how she looks, because she has much bigger things going on. It's a small thing, but really stood out to me in a refreshing way. And I LOVED the romance, but I agree that we don't all have to be dating someone all the time. But Drill was able to bring the best out in Sam, and he supported her so much, but he couldn't survive military school for her. She had to do it herself. Gosh, I'm dying for a sequel. You know me and HEAs. But I'll read whatever Hensley writes next.

  22. First of all, happy belated birthday, dear! I hope it was wonderful.
    Secondly, I hope you're enjoying college! It definitely can be overwhelming at first, but it gets better. :)
    I can't wait to read your review of Rites of Passage. It sounds like a powerful, thought-provoking book just from the interview here. And who doesn't love a story where a girl defies the odds/expectations due to her gender? :)


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