Meet B.B. Swann

This week I’m introducing B.B. Swann, author of the adorable young adult novel Breaking The Bro Code.

B.B. Swann wanted to be a writer when she realized writing words was easier than saying them out loud. Still, somehow, she became a teacher, too and talks quite a bit.

B.B. Swann lives in Southern Illinois with her two- and four-legged family members. She loves to run, binge watch Netflix health documentaries, and talk to her three teens when they have a minute to spare.

Most nights you can find her reading or writing into the wee hours of the night. She believes in the almighty power of caffeine and battling old age with purple hair and lots of sarcasm.

It’s the 80’s. Hair is big, styles are bitchin, and Molly Mason must run for her life. Her plan is simple—race fast enough to get a cross country scholarship. Hayden Bishop has a different idea—convince Molly, his best friend’s girlfriend, that he can treat her better.

Hayden and Molly find themselves entangled in a relationship with more twists and turns than a Rubik’s Cube. Friends interfere. Lies are born. Molly’s scholarship is put in jeopardy and Hayden’s chance to win her is slipping away. Only the truth will save them, if they can both find it in time.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Well, I’m originally from a small town north of Chicago called Winthrop Harbor. The cornerstone of Illinois is our claim to fame. I grew up with my older brother and parents. Middle class, little pink houses, that kind of life. My parents were both hard working and passed that trait onto me. I went to college and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, then my Master of Education in Language and Literacy. I’ve taught pre-school special education, at risk pre-school, kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd grade. Now I live in Illinois across the river from St. Louis. I moved here when I met my husband (in Florida on a vacation by myself—but that’s a whole other story) I have three children, two sons (both in college) and a daughter who is a junior in high school this year. I also spend a lot of time alone with my furry children—three cats and a dog. They know all my secret plot lines because they’re the only ones home most of the time to bounce ideas off of. They give tremendous support but aren’t much help with critiques! 

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books? 

I’ve always been a reader. I learned to read when I was three or four (thank you Big Bird!) and I’ve been reading ever since. My parents always valued education and wanted me to do well. I remember when we would visit family on the weekends and my cousins would want to run around outside at my aunt’s farm. I did plenty of that, but mostly I would lay on her bed and read romance novels. She always had a paper grocery bag filled with them and I would take one, read it, then put it back and get another. That’s probably why romance is my favorite genre. Sometimes I look back and wonder if my parents knew what I was reading because some of them were pretty racy. I’m not sure a ten-year-old should have been reading adult historical romance, but I loved it. I still remember some of the plots lines and characters.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

Not historical romance! Actually, my favorite book was called Scruffy, I can’t remember the author or the plot but it was about dogs, one of my favorite animals. I remember one dog in the book named Hamlet, a bull dog. He was the pet of a barman at a bar named The Prince of Denmark. That character stands out now because at the time I got a new puppy who looked like the Hamlet in my mind’s eye and I named him after the character. Funnily enough, my dog was a terrier and didn’t end up looking anything like the bull dog in my mind. Being the precocious child I was, I told everyone I named him Hamlet because I liked Shakespeare. Who’s going to argue with an eleven-year-old who claims a love of the Bard?

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

So many books became a part of me in little ways, and big ways. Everything I’ve read shaped the way I think and view the world. Maybe I’ll sound like everyone else on the planet but the Harry Potter series affected me the most. I didn’t read a lot of fantasy prior to Rowling’s series and I fell in love with her world right away. As the years passed and more books came out, my own children grew old enough to enjoy them too. That’s the part I loved the most, sharing those words with them. First reading out loud then, when they were old enough, reading along side them. My oldest son and I were the biggest fans, and I remember having to buy two copies of the final book because neither one of us wanted to wait for the other to finish reading so we could share the book. Years later, when Universal opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, we booked a trip and went two weeks after it opened. I remember the look on my son’s face when we walked in that first day and stood next to the Hogwart’s Express train engine. The look of wonder and excitement he had was probably on my face too. He looked at me and said, “Whoa.” One little word that held all the memories of reading the books to and with him. Those books will forever remind me of my kids and those special times.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was Vice City, written by a friend of mine, S.A. Stoval. It’s a crime thriller about a mob muscle, Pierce, who contemplates his purpose in life and considers retiring, but is faced with solving one final problem for his boss, Nick Vice. It’s filled with suspense and even a little romance between Pierce and the man he was supposed to work over for the boss. The plot kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen. The second book is due out next year and I can’t wait!

As for favorites, that’s hard. My favorite adult author is Dean Koontz, his Odd Thomas series is the best. I like a lot of John Greene’s YA’s, Rainbow Rowell, Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, Jen Mann’s People I’d Like to Punch in the Throat. If I keep looking at my kindle library you’ll know them all soon. I also write picture books so I have a few favorites there, too. Dr. Seuss, of course because he was a rule breaker. He wrote books with references to the problems faced by society during his time that still apply today. I respect that, and it’s what I hope to do with my books. Chris Van Allsburg is another favorite. His thought provoking illustrations and stories always leave the reader saying what if? That’s important because it makes us think beyond the story and forces us to use our imaginations. As a teacher, I like to encourage my students to always keep thinking and learning, his books are great for that purpose. Though this past year, one little girl told me she had nightmares after I shared The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, so I might want to rethink using that one this year. In this book, Van Allsburg has pictures suggestive of a story and one open-ended line captioning the picture. Readers are supposed to “fill in the blanks”. Her imagination filled them in a little too much I think.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Could I just attach my kindle library here? I would love to meet any of the authors I mentioned, and so many that I didn’t. One of the best and scariest things about writing is that you put a piece of yourself into every story, and the pieces of others that I’ve seen makes me want to meet them all. But if I had to choose one, I think it would be J.K Rowling. I admire her integrity and how she does so much for others despite the fame her books have given her. She understands the importance of having empathy and paying it forward. To go from where she was, on welfare and struggling, to having everything she could ever want and still be an advocate for those in need, that’s impressive, and I’d like to have a chance to thank her. She gives writers a good name.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

Growing up in the 70’s, I can remember watching Sesame Street as a child. My mom didn’t work outside the home until I was older so I never went to pre-school, and Big Bird was my teacher. I learned to read before kindergarten and I think it was from a combination of that show and my parent’s reading habits. Writing is a natural extension of reading for me. I used to make up stories in my head, but I never actually wrote them. When I played with my friends, usually with Barbies, (forgive me if you’re a feminist but I loved my dolls) I created the scripts for each one. Looking back, I guess those were my first leaps into romance writing. Barbie and Ken had lots of conflicts.  

More formal writing began when I was a junior in high school and I took a creative writing class. Our teacher was wonderful. She let us call her by her first name, Sarah, and I can remember more than once when she was there as a shoulder to cry on. She was the first one to tell me I was a writer, and that what I had to say was important enough to write it down for others to read. Mostly then I wrote poetry. It was a great avenue for getting out all that teenage angst.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

Do I really have to confess to this? Well, I started a story in class junior year. It was terrible. I don’t remember much, but I do remember I spent a whole page describing what my main character looked like and what she wore. It’s embarrassing to think about. The first “real” story I wrote is a picture book named Katie Comma. It’s a story inspired from my time working with young children about a comma who gets blown from her book and tries to find her way back to where she belongs by diving into sentences. I wrote it last year after deciding it was time to get serious. I joined an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) group and took the first step toward becoming an author. It’s currently with a publisher and will hopefully be published in a year or so. I can’t wait to see it published and be able to use it in my own classroom when I teach about proper uses of commas. And yes, I am team Oxford!

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

The most difficult part is having the confidence needed to deal with rejections. Each book or story is a part of me that I am sharing and that can be scary. It’s hard to let critique partners or agents read your work when they might (and should) tell you what needs to be fixed. Writers need skin a mile thick and that takes a while to develop. When I send out a query or manuscript to a beta reader, I remind myself that all critique is good, and brings me closer to the success of sharing my stories.

The best part is when someone reads one of my books and tells me “I couldn’t stop reading!” In August, that happened and I finally got an agent, Cathie Hedrick of the Purcell Agency. She and I have been working to get my YA romance, Romancing Death, ready to sell and it’s been fabulous! Probably one of the most important things I can say about her is that she loves my book almost as much as I do and will do everything she can to get it out to readers.

That’s what writing is all about for me, making other people happy and sucking them into my story. I want others to love them, too, and when they have something positive to say, it warms my heart. 

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

I’ve had some great advice from some incredible writers and it’s difficult to choose one solid piece, but I think the best advice was from my friend Chris. I had written Katie Comma and wanted to know how to get published. Chris has a pretty successful YA series about dragons, so I asked her what the steps were to get published. She told me the first thing I needed to do was join a critique group and have other writers read my writing. And she was right, of course. I have my local SCBWI and RWA (Romance Writers of America) groups where I share, but also several online CP’s (critique partners) I’ve met on Twitter. It’s great to have that many people reading my work and improving it. But you have to take everything with a grain of salt, as they say. Sometimes your partners don’t see the whole picture and you may know something works even if they don’t see it yet. But typically, if three or more CP’s suggest a change in a word or plot point, I take that as a sign that I need to rewrite.

The things I’ve learned from my CP’s have helped me become a much better writer. Sometimes their comments are hard to hear because writing is so personal. It’s a piece of you on the page, and to hear someone say you did it wrong, well, it’s not always easy to take that constructively. But without their help, my writing would stagnate and never get better so I welcome the comments, good or bad.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I have a YA romance called Breaking the Bro Code, about Hayden and Molly. He likes her but she’s his best friend’s girlfriend. When the best friend turns out to be a jerk, Hayden decides to show Molly that he can treat her better. We see their struggle to overcome the lies and drama from their classmates and her ex.

There is plenty of teenaged angst and drama, and, because I have lots of experience with them, sports; both running and soccer. My daughter and I are runners and my sons and husband played soccer. I had lots of experience to draw on and my kids made good critique partners, too. What teen doesn’t love telling Mom she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, right? Bro Code is available now on Amazon and Createspace. Aside from Katie Comma, I have several completed picture books that I am trying to find a home for, too.

My next project is a short story anthology I am working on with several other authors. I’m not sure I can mention the title yet, but I will say it involves fairy tales with sci-fi and fantasy twists. I’m excited to be a part of it and can’t wait to share it. We plan on publishing it in November.

I have a YA sci-fi I wrote early on that needs lots of revisions. It was my first ever novel and I have learned a tremendous amount since then that I would like to apply to this story. The biggest change being a complete POV change from third to first person. 

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

If I’m not reading or writing, which is rare these days, I like to be outside. Running is my favorite sport and I try to do it as often as I can. I’ve run five full marathons and thirteen halves, along with several shorter races. Running the holy grail of races (Boston) is out of reach because I’m not fast, but I did run in Boston this summer when we took our daughter there for a Leadership Summit at Harvard University. That counts, right? My favorite part is how I feel after a long run. Covered with sweat, tired legs, thirsty as hell, but knowing I carried myself eight miles, ten miles, fifteen miles, it’s incredible. It makes me think If I can do that, I can do anything.

Spending time with my family is most important, though. I have three children and anything they do interests me. For some reason, they aren’t totally against hanging out with mom some of the time. But that might be because mom pays for things. 😊

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

I don’t think I’d want to be an expert at anything. I love learning new things and finding ways to share that knowledge. I think if I were an expert, the thrill of learning would vanish. I mean, if you know it all then there’s nothing left to learn. That’s not a place I’d want to be in.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

This question is easier to answer! I sort of have this goal to visit every state in the US. I’ve got plenty covered but the more remote and expensive ones may be harder to reach. An all expense paid trip to Hawaii or Alaska would be great! Hawaii in the winter and Alaska in the summer. I hate to be cold. Outside of the US I think I’d like to travel to Europe. My great grandparents immigrated from Germany and Denmark. I’d like to visit those countries for sure and maybe trace my roots.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

I do all the typical social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram) and have a website with links to my media. (www.bbswann.com) But I like to meet people in person, too. I’ll be at a reader’s conference September 29th and 30th called PennedCon St. Louis. It’s a great time to meet hundreds of authors and have a chance to purchase books. The organizers, Amy and Rick Miles, have hosted the conference for the last four years as a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, an organization that helps families with autistic children. I went last year as a reader with a friend and it was inspiring. This year, I will be there as an author, so I’m super excited to share my books. If anyone is interested in supporting Autism Speaks or checking out the conference, the information can be found on their website, pennedcon.com

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Yes, thanks for having me on your blog. Your questions forced me to think about something I usually don’t—myself. Sometimes self inspection is necessary to be a better writer. And it was fun!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing a little about you. I’m loving Molly and Hayden’s story and can’t wait to see how it ends. They’re so cute!

If you’d like to read Breaking The Bro Code, you can find it on Amazon and Createspace.

Breaking The Bro Code – Amazon

Breaking The Bro Code – Createspace

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