I had the privilege of interviewing Katy Upperman, the author of the new Swoon Reads release ‘Kissing Max Holden’! It’s her debut novel, and you can purchase it at your local bookstore or at one of the links included down below! (If you’re interested in reading a spoiler free review, you can read my ARC review here!)
After his father’s stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.
With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school suddenly up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart, and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?
COURTNEY: What inspired you to write contemporary young adult romance fiction?
KATY UPPERMAN: I honestly didn’t give much thought to genre or age category when I started writing. I just dove right into the story that had been running circles through my head – a story whose protagonist was a teenager. It wasn’t until I finished that first manuscript that I started to research the market. That’s when I discovered YA was an actual thing. That first manuscript never went anywhere, but it taught me a lot about voice, and showed me that my natural voice falls into the YA category. It also reminded me of how complex and challenging high school can be, which is why when I started a second manuscript (the story that would eventually become Kissing Max Holden), I jumped back into exploring the feelings that often come with being a teenager.
COURT: Which character changed the most from the first draft to the final copy of Kissing Max Holden?
KATY: Oh, gosh – they all changed so much! I completely rewrote Kissing Max Holden a couple years after finishing the first draft. Originally, Jill lived with her mother and stepfather; now, of course, she lives with her father and stepmother, Meredith. I’d say that of all the characters, though, Jill changed the most. In the story’s earliest drafts, she didn’t have much agency. As I grew as a writer (and started getting some really excellent feedback from trusted readers) I realized that as a protagonist, Jill couldn’t sit back and let things happen around her; she had to make them happen. In the finished version of the book, she’s a much stronger character and, while she’s not perfect, she definitely owns up to her choices.
COURT: Is there a specific reason KMH is published in hardcover? (Just curious, as most Swoon Reads titles are PB!)
KATY: As far as I know, Swoon Reads is testing the format, and Kissing Max Holden happened to be one of the books selected for publication in hardcover. I think you’ll see more in the future!
COURT: What inspired KMH, and how long did it take for you to write the first draft?
KATY: The longtime-friends-turn-sweethearts trope inspired the story – it’s one of my favorites to read! I also incorporated lots of other things I find inspiring: a fictionalized version of my small hometown in the Pacific Northwest, baking, and country music, to name a few. The first draft took about two months to complete, but as I mentioned, I later spent a few more months rewriting it, and then years revising before it eventually sold to Swoon Reads.
COURT: After the cover direction was chosen, did you get any input in the final cover decisions?
KATY: A little bit! After the voting was over and a winning cover direction was determined, Swoon Reads told me they were going to shoot an original photograph rather than use the one featured in the cover direction. They asked what I liked about the chosen direction, and if I had any feedback. I loved that the selected cover direction photo was black-and-white because I don’t see that a whole lot on YA bookshelves, and I hoped they’d keep that for the finished cover. I also suggested using pink for the title font rather than the gold used for the cover direction. Pink is my favorite color, so I’m really happy they were open to making that change. I’m so pleased with how the finished cover came out!
COURT: If KMH were to be adapted into a movie, who would be your fancasts for Jillian and Max?
KATY: I think my fancasts might be too old to play my characters now, but Maya Mitchell from The Teen Beach movies would make a perfect Jilly, and young Dean Geyer looks very close to how I picture Max.
COURT: What was your favorite scene to write/were you most excited to have your readers read?
KATY: The mistletoe scene will forever be my favorite. It’s one of the few scenes that changed very little when I rewrote the book, and I just really like how it all plays out – Jilly being all pragmatic, and Max teasing her, and the kiss turning out to be a pretty big game changer. Who doesn’t want to have a mistletoe kiss with Max Holden? 😉
Thank you so much to Katy for answering all of my questions!
Connect with the author!
Twitter – @katyupperman
Instagram – @katyupperman
Goodreads – @katyupperman
About the Author:
Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. KISSING MAX HOLDEN is her debut; her sophomore novel, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US, will be available summer, 2018.