September 27, 2016

Congrats to Paula Garner on the release of her debut, PHANTOM LIMBS!

Paula Garner's story of love and grief (and sports!) has drawn raves for its realism and intensity. And, after a long wait, it's finally out today!

The Story

Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.

The Reviews

This debut novel is a story of loss, love, and friendship, about a teenager coming to terms with the past and dealing with repressed memories that are resurfacing...Readers will find Otis relatable and endearing in his first-person perspective of first love and heartbreak, as well as his unwavering loyalty to his friends. Meg and Dara round out a cast of well-developed characters who have extensive troubles of their own. Most teenagers will find a little bit of themselves in this well-executed work; a must-have for most YA collections.
—School Library Journal, starred review

The inability to let go of the past pushes all three white teens beyond their comfort zones into uncharted territory, Garner slowly and steadily guiding readers through these journeys. A heavy read weighted by intense emotions and grief, the novel sifts through tough memories, searching for the silver lining.
—Kirkus Reviews

Otis’ journey—as a competitive swimmer and as a grieving brother—is a poignant one...It’s tough-talking, reckless Dara who will intrigue readers. Her struggles with her father, her sexuality, and the dreams deferred because of her accident complement Otis’ story, elevating this to a narrative as much about human connection as it is about sports.

Garner’s debut sensitively portrays Meg and Otis’s bruised emotions, both recovering from deep loss. Though the description of Mason’s accident is a gut-punch in its realism, much of the plot unfolds predictably. The novel’s strongest moments go to Dara, whose no-holds-barred personality—"she was the human equivalent of a Venus flytrap"—livens and complicates the novel.
—Publishers Weekly

The Interview

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your book?

The idea came from thinking about the attachment between Kevin and Winnie in the Wonder Years, and the belief that they would have feelings about one other for the rest of their lives. I wondered, what would happen if two neighbors/best friends/first loves were separated suddenly, without closure? How would that affect them, and what would happen when they saw each other again years later?

Also, my son was a high school swimmer and I spent a lot of time at swim meets. J

Q: Describe your writing process, from idea to final draft.

Usually what happens is I’ll write a draft in a fairly short time and then discover OH HEY, THAT’S NOT EVEN A STORY; it’s more a Whole Bunch of Information for the Author. Then I spend a painful number of drafts trying to find the story. In PHANTOM LIMBS, virtually nothing remains from the first draft. I hope in the future to achieve better math.

Q: Tell us about your journey, from finding an agent to publication.

I was chosen for PitchWars in late 2013, which changed my life. I made amazing friends and CPs, received multiple offers of representation, and signed with a great agent in February 2014. We worked on revisions for about six months, and she sold PHANTOM LIMBS that fall.

Q: Why would someone want to buy your book?

PHANTOM LIMBS pulls no punches. It deals with various kinds of grief that we don't see in many books. It’s a coming-of-age story about childhood friendships and first love and loss. It follows a grieving competitive swimmer named Otis, and Meg, his one-time best friend and first love, who mysteriously disappeared on him three years before. There is also Dara, a troubled amputee and formal Olympic hopeful, whose grip on Otis tightens when she finds out Meg is coming back to town. There is a dilapidated summer home packed with memories. And a magnolia tree. And a very large serving of pasta carbonara.  

Q: What are your favorite books? What are you reading now?

I tend to become cross when asked to name favorite anythings, but books I’ve loved: The History of Love, Olive Kitteridge, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Night of the Comet, Norwegian by Night, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,  I'll Give You the Sun, Bone Gap, The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

Buy it now on Amazon or read more on Goodreads.