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How to Be Brave

    HOW TO BE BRAVE Blog Tour: Q&A with E. Katherine Kottaras + Giveaway


    I am super excited to be today’s stop on the HOW TO BE BRAVE Blog Tour with an awesome Q&A with Author E. Katherine Kottaras provided by the publisher in which she talks about yoga, body image, her character Georgia, her bucket list, and gives advice to aspiring authors.

    HOW TO BE BRAVE is a wonderful and uplifting story with a positive message and moments that will make you tear up. (If you’d like to check out my review, it’s HERE.) It released this week, but if you don’t yet have your copy, the publisher is offering one up for giveaway. Just scroll down and enter in the Rafflecopter below.

    There are more chances to win at some of the other stops on the tour, which runs from November 3rd through the 17th. So be sure to check them out. I’ve included a few direct links at the bottom of the post.

    The publisher has also created an awesome interactive trailer. Just click on the image or link below to check it out!

    HTBB Trailer

    Watch the trailer

    And if you haven’t yet had the chance, be sure to check out Griffin Teen’s new WEBSITE, or visit them on TWITTER, FACEBOOK or TUMBLR.


    How to Be Brave

    Add to Goodreads

    Title: HOW TO BE BRAVE: A Novel
    Author: E. Katherine Kottaras
    Release date: November 3, 2015
    Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
    Pages: 288
    Formats: Hardcover, eBook

    Read an EXCERPT


    An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

    Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.



    “This is a solid story of loss that fits in well with other recent stories of grief in the face of a parent’s death, like Jennifer Castle’s The Beginning of After (2011) and Jennifer Brown’s Torn Away (2014). The book’s strongest sections are the lyrical flashbacks that tell the story of her mother’s life and death, but Georgia’s struggles with weight and body image are also handled with care. A perfect book for anyone trying to figure out what they want their life to look like, and how to be brave enough to make that life a reality.” —Booklist

    “Georgia’s realistically profane voice aptly captures her personality, carrying the novel; her traverse through grief and experimentation make for a believable and satisfying character arc. A thoughtful exploration of grief and life.” —Kirkus Reviews

    “Georgia’s Greek-American heritage offers a distinctive backdrop for the novel’s themes of emotional healing and self-discovery, while Georgia herself emerges as a realistically flawed and genuine protagonist.” —Publishers Weekly

    “How to Be Brave is a celebration of life, from the captivating open page to the emotional ending. Kottaras acutely and poetically depicts the painful struggle of re-finding yourself after a defining loss-and the stark effects of both success and failure along the way-in a lovely, heartfelt debut.” —Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes

    “Just enough sass, just enough heart, and a narrator to root for. How to be Brave  ushered me into another yet familiar world.  Come along for the ride.  You’ll be glad you did.” —Ron Koertge, award winning author of Coaltown Jesus

    “Powerful and rare, How to Be Brave is a wonderfully told story with gleams of humor and wit that will inspire readers to live their lives for real.” —Robyn Schneider, bestselling author of The Beginning of Everything

    “How To Be Brave does a cartwheel in your heart. It artfully reminds us that bravery forges a path through fear and grief.” —Courtney C. Stevens, author of Faking Normal

    The Interview

    Q&A with E. Katherine Kottaras

    Q. You are also a yoga instructor and practitioner. How has this influenced your writing?

    I am in my head, a lot. My yoga practice grounds me like nothing else. One definition of yoga is the linking of body and breath to focus the mind. I find that when I’m not doing my practice, I can’t focus and I become easily overwhelmed by my fears and my anxiety – and as a result, I can’t write. When I am doing my practice, I’m able to deal with those fears and those anxieties in a way that is healthy.

    Q. What’s currently on your bucket list?

    Here are a few things on my Do Everything Be Brave List: 

    • Learn how to roller skate and/or ice skate without using the wall.
    • Ride my bike to yoga. (Bike lanes scare me!)
    • Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and all the way back up, I guess…)
    • Visit every continent (I’ve only been to two.)

    Here are a few brave things I’ve done: 

    • Flown down the largest zip-line in the continental U.S. despite my fear of heights. (and gave my eight-year old permission to do so as well.)
    • Paddle-boarded during high-wind season in Hawaii.
    • Fallen in love and stayed there for more than twenty years.
    • Become a writer. I tell my students everyday: it’s the scariest thing in the world.

    Q. What advice can you provide aspiring authors?

    READ. A lot. Both in the genre/style you want to publish in and ABOUT writing – all aspects – the writing process, the publishing process, etc. There are hundreds of blog posts about the writing life, etc. and I read them obsessively to understand what I had to do to get published.

    Also, WRITE a lot, of course. Just keep writing, no matter what, even if it’s a journal for yourself where you write a little bit everyday. And keep submitting – the rejections are difficult at first, but it gets easier.

    Writing is hard and fun and frustrating and exhilirating. I can’t imagine not writing. And if you write, you understand this strange demand – it’s not a desire; it’s a necessity. Follow that call, whatever it is inside you that asks you to write – and keep writing, no matter what.

    Q. How do you address body image issues with your daughter? Was that part of the drive to write this book?

    Absolutely. We talk a lot about how the media often “sells” a certain body type. .” I’ve shown her Photoshopping videos like this one:

    and we discuss, quite openly, how it’s unrealistic to try to change your body to meet the standards presented in magazines and on screens. I try to guide our conversation as a discussion, asking her questions about why she thinks the media represents women and girls in certain ways. We talk about how every body is beautiful, and that she is beautiful, just as she is.

    Q. HOW TO BE BRAVE addresses issues of positive body image. Was this something you set out to address or did it spring up organically? Is body image something you struggled with?

    When I was growing up in the 1980s, I didn’t have access to the amazing body of work known as “YA literature” as it exists today. I was fairly obsessed with Sweet Valley High, but Elizabeth and Jessica were suburban twins (I’m an only child) with “perfect size-six figures,” and that was totally outside the realm of my experience.

    Thankfully, I did have Judy Blume, who was bravely offering characters that worried and obsessed about their growing bodies. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? and Blubber spoke to me about my awkward body and bullying and the need for kindness.

    But for the most part, I didn’t belong in the books I read. I was the only child of a Greek father and Russian-Jewish mother who were both of peasant stock (farmers on both sides) and who owned a restaurant in downtown Chicago. I didn’t know anything about suburban high schools, about size six.

    This last one was especially hard for me. When I was twelve, my pediatrician told me that I needed to lose twenty to thirty pounds, thus starting a lifelong battle with my weight. My ballet teacher told my mother I was too big too dance and she was wasting her money. I was constantly picked last in gym, alongside my BFF, who also struggled with her body. When I asked her recently what she remembered of our time as kids, she said:

    “I remember our PE teachers who didn’t help or guide but rather assisted with shaming by making the whole class wait for ‘free day’ until a pull-up was done (as though the situation was rooted in straight up defiance rather than inability) leading to a life-long dislike of physical activity.”

    I remember those many days, feeling embarrassed and shamed by my teachers, which led to feeling more uncomfortable and awkward (as though my own self-shame wasn’t enough). By the time I was in high school, I absolutely hated my body.

    I spent my twenties battling my weight. I yo-yo’d between diets and hunger and new workout trends and gyms. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I never was able to become a perfect size six – nothing even close to that – and my body retained its fullness, its roundness, its hardy, muscular, stocky, peasant stock shape. My short arms weren’t going to suddenly become lean and long. My thick thighs always remain thick. My belly likes being round, what can I say?

    I fought it for so very long. And then, after giving birth to my daughter, I stopped fighting. I had to. I learned to love my body in a new way. It was life-giving. It was strong. It was mine.

    So when I sat down to write my own book, I knew the character had to be several things: she had to be Greek, she had to live in Chicago, and she had to have immigrant parents who didn’t always understand her. I also knew that she would struggle with her body. BUT. I didn’t want losing weight to be central to her experience. I knew I didn’t want it to be a goal. For the longest time, it was for me. I didn’t want to do that to her.

    HOW TO BE BRAVE is about a girl who has lived her life in fear and who sets out to try new things, despite her insecurities. Before her death, her mom commanded Georgia to live differently—to try everything at least once and to never be ruled by fear.

    When Georgia is first creating her list, she asks her best friend, Liss:

    “What about losing weight?”

    And Liss responds: “You don’t need to be brave to do that.”

    Georgia agrees, but of course, her insecurities don’t just disappear. They are always there. However, at the end Georgia finally realizes, “I’m not going to kill myself trying to achieve microscopic proportions. I’m still curvy me, and I always will be.”

    Of course, there are many similarities between Georgia and me. Georgia also feels uncomfortable in her body that’s deemed “overweight” by society’s standards, and part of her storyline is that she finds confidence in her body, as it is – that losing weight does not equal being brave. This has been part of my storyline has well.

    About E. Katherine Kottaras

    E. Katherine Kottaras CREDIT Emily Mae Marie

    E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College.  She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing. She now lives in Los Angeles where she’s hard at work on her next book.


    The Giveaway

    Courtesy of the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin…

    • A copy of HOW TO BE BRAVE to ONE winner – US/Canada

    ***Prizing sent by the publisher. Giveaway ends November 20th ***

    Enter in the Rafflecopter below…

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    The Tour So Far

    Nov. 3rd | The Young Folks – Q&A + Giveaway

    Nov. 4th | The Reading Date – Excerpt + Giveaway

    Nov. 5th | Melanie’s Musings – Q&A, Review + Giveaway

    Nov. 5th | Miss Riki – Review

    Nov. 6th | Fiktshun – Q&A + Giveaway {You’re here!}

    Nov. 6th | The Hollow Cupboards – Excerpt + Giveaway

    Nov. 7th | The O.W.L. – Excerpt + Giveaway

    Nov. 8th | Addicted 2 Novels – Excerpt + Giveaway

    Nov. 8th | Reviews Coming at YA –  Q&A

    Nov. 9th | Ex Libris – Review, Excerpt + Giveaway

    Nov. 10th | Blackplume – Q&A + Giveaway

    Nov. 12th | The Reading Nook Reviews – Q&A + Giveaway

    Nov. 13th | Books and Ladders – Review, Excerpt + Giveaway

    Nov. 14th | Carmel and Kyla – Q&A + Giveaway

    Nov. 14th | The Bookish Babes – Excerpt

    Nov. 16th | Miss Print – Q&A

    Nov. 17th | A Bookworm’s World – Review, Excerpt + Giveaway

    Nov. 18th | Falling For YA – Giveaway


    Review: HOW TO BE BRAVE

    How to Be Brave

    Add to Goodreads

    Title: HOW TO BE BRAVE
    Author: E. Katherine Kottaras
    Release date: November 3, 2015
    Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
    Pages: 288
    Formats: Hardcover, eBook

    Read an EXCERPT


    Georgia has always lived life on the sidelines: uncomfortable with her weight, awkward, never been kissed, terrified of failing.

    Then her mom dies and her world is turned upside down. But instead of getting lost in her pain, she decides to enjoy life while she still can by truly living for the first time. She makes a list of ways to be brave-all the things she’s always wanted to do but has been too afraid to try: learn to draw, try out for cheerleading, cut class, ask him out, kiss him, see what happens from there.

    But she’s about to discover that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But in the process, you realize you’re stronger than you ever imagined…
    This fearless, big-hearted, deeply moving book will make you laugh, cry, and inspire you to be brave.


    NOTE: This review is based on an eARC received by the publicity agency via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

    The Review

    HOW TO BE BRAVE is a mix of sad and sweet and heartwarming and empowering. It has an interesting and refreshingly different narrative that weaves these wonderful and important pieces of the main character’s life – memories, thoughts, feelings – into the main storyline. It introduces characters who feel authentic, experiences that feel believable, and emotions that feel real and relatable. It is a quick and engaging read that reinforces a positive and important message – to live one’s life bravely.

    Georgia Askeridis has been struggling to find a way to to live her life without her mother in it. Her mother was the heart of the family. She was the bridge between her and her father. She was her strength, her courage, her happiness, her best friend. And her death left a huge void.

    She wouldn’t be there to at the start of senior year to give her advice. She wouldn’t be there to help keep the family business afloat. She wouldn’t be there to make the holidays bearable, or see her graduate, or help her figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She wouldn’t be there for any of it.

    But before she’d gone, she had given Georgia one directive – to live life, to do everything, to be brave. And even if it was scary or risky or embarrassing or felt impossible, she was going to try.

    Author E. Katherine Kottaras wrote a story that was moving and genuine, sometimes funny, sometimes heartrending, sometimes delightful, sometimes thoughtful. She created a character to tell her story who wasn’t always easy to like or connect with but who was sympathetic and whose feelings and actions were understandable given her circumstances.

    Georgia was at times angry, insecure, self-deprecating, judgmental. But she did strive to be better, to be positive, to grow, to be the brave person her mother wanted her to be but wasn’t able to be herself.

    HOW TO BE BRAVE spans the course of Georgia’s final year in high school and reads very much like a slice of life with an ending that’s left open for all sorts of possibilities. It is bittersweet. It is uplifting and inspiring. It will make you smile, and laugh, and cry. And it will make you want to find your own way to be brave.

    The Rating


    About E. Katherine Kottaras

    E Katherine Kottaras

    E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing.

    Her debut YA contemporary novel, HOW TO BE BRAVE, is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press (November 3, 2015). Her second book is tentatively set for a 2016 release.