5 stars from Claire at This Girl Loves Books:
Undecided is a funny, sexy read. The boys a totally swoon-worthy. The book is not your typical college romance, where virgin/sweet girl meets bad boy. Undecided is so much more. Read more here!
4.5 stars from Eileen at Book Cat Pin:
Nora, Crosbie, Kellan- I loved these three and what they brought to the story. The dynamic each pair shared was fabulous. Whether it was Kellan and Crosbie's bromance with their easy-going jabs and jokes or Nora and Crosbie's romance in all its glorious sexual tension, each relationship had a great balance. Nothing overtook or overwhelmed. I loved every moment with them. Read more here!
POST THREE - SHOW YOUR WORK
Remember when you were first learning to do long division and the teacher made you “show your work” so you couldn’t just cheat and write the final answer? This is a pretty apt analogy for how I feel about instalove in romance novels. I know a lot of people are willing and able to overlook it, but it drives me insane. That’s why there are zero instances of instalove in any of my books. Insta-lust? Sure. I can buy that. But instalove is a firm no.
My favourite part of reading romance is seeing the characters fall in love. Being told on page nine that they can’t live without each other feels like a cheat. I think the reason instalove is so prevalent in modern love stories is because of the pressure to “get your story started” right away. You have to “hook” a reader/agent/publisher immediately, so characters simply lock eyes and begin drowning in their desire for one another on page two.
I’d much rather come to the conclusion that a couple is meant to be 2-gether 4-ever on my own. And I like to come to this conclusion by reading about the progression of their relationship, by seeing their interactions (and not just the sexytimes), reading the dialogue, and *feeling* something.
I want to see couples be real, be funny, be foolish, be frisky. Trying to find the balance between showing these things and keeping up the pace so the reader/agent/publisher is invested is not always easy, but when a writer takes the time to do this, I give them an A+ for effort. (*ahem* I’m saying give me an A+.)
What do you think? Do you find instalove irritating or is it a non-issue?
A rating (and a Desert Isle Keeper designation) from Emily at All About Romance:
I loved Undecided and it’s easily the best NA novel I’ve read this year. Based on the cover art, you might assume (like I did) it’s going to be the standard NA romance with a messy love triangle. You would be wrong. Instead – and ironically - Ms. Keyes has produced a love story about the perils of judging a book by its cover. Read the rest here!
4 stars from Mariana at Book Is Glee:
Julianna Keyes can write a hilarious AND heart-throbbing story like nobody's business. The book was super sweet and adorable, but at the same time, it can give your heart a small kick by how meaningful the story was. I fell hard for Undecided. Read more here!
POST TWO - MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN
Several years ago I went to see Penn & Teller’s Vegas magic show with my parents. (They’re a magician duo, if you’re unfamiliar.) (Penn & Teller, not my parents.) After the show they do a meet & greet in the lobby where you wait your turn to take pictures. The picture-taking set-up wasn’t particularly orderly—more like a giant swarm of people that you slowly waded through to get your photograph.
I was waiting with my dad, who felt I wasn’t being aggressive enough in getting to the front of the pack and as such, nudged me insistently. And by “insistently” I mean, non-stop. I-will-cut-off-your-finger-if-you-poke-me-again non-stop. Coupled with a hundred admonitions of “Move up! Get in there! Push through!” I was red-faced with fury. It probably took about ten minutes to reach Penn and by the time I got there, I was livid. Still, I wanted this picture so I posed with Penn, smiled to let my dad take the picture, and sagged with relief. It was over. Until we got about seven steps away and my dad mumbled, “Yeah...I didn’t get it.” I was like, WHAT? For reasons only dads can understand, he’d fiddled with the settings on the camera and couldn’t figure out how to un-set them so we ended up with a super-zoomed in shot that includes my sunburned forehead and the bottom right portion of Penn’s face. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO ANGRY IN MY LIFE.
After several years, I became less angry and started to find the story funny. I’m not a huge magic fan (though I enjoyed the show), so I was less furious about the botched photo op than the nagging it took to get there. Still, I thought about this a lot while considering Crosbie’s magic tricks for the book, and spent some time on Youtube trying to find simple tricks that would fit the story. For those who are interested, below are links to two videos that show a couple of the tricks Crosbie performs (the one with the folded $1 and $5 bills, and the one with the coins). They’re not particularly high quality, and be warned: they both show how the tricks are done, in case you don’t want spoilers.
4.5 stars from Jaime at Fiction Fare:
I honestly loved that their “connection” wasn’t immediate. I loved that they took the time to get to know each other and get to learn about each other a bit before anything happened between them… it had me rooting so much more for their relationship. And when things happen… hoooomygod. So hot, and so sexy. Read more here!
4 stars from Christina at The Book Hookup:
The main characters, Nora and Crosbie, were a delightful couple of characters individually, but when they got together, even just as friends, the pages sparked with a particular kind of magic. Their dialogue exchanges made me laugh, flail, swoon, and fan my face. I loved watching them grow as their own person and as a couple. Read more here!
4.5 stars from Nick at The Girl with the Happily Ever Afters:
What made this book so great for me was Julianna Keyes' handling of the story. This could easily have veered into love triangle territory with lots and lots of drama and angst, but she surprisingly managed to stay away from all of those. Instead, she wrote a book with a ton of charm and an entirely lovable cast of characters. Read more here!
Burnham College #1
Nora Kincaid has one goal for her second year of college: be invisible. Last year’s all-party-no-study strategy resulted in three failed classes and two criminal charges, and if she messes up again she’ll lose her scholarship. But there’s one problem with her plan for invisibility, and his name is Crosbie Lucas: infamous party king, general hellraiser…and her new roommate’s best friend.
Crosbie’s reckless reputation and well-known sexcapades aren’t part of Nora’s studious new strategy, but as she’s quickly learning, her new plan is also really boring. When Crosbie’s unexpected gestures of friendship pull her head out of her books long enough to see past his cocky veneer, she’s surprised to find a flawed and funny guy beneath it all. The muscles don’t hurt, either.
But as Nora starts to fall for Crosbie, the weight of one of last year’s bad decisions grows even heavier. Because three failing grades and two misdemeanors are nothing compared to the one big secret she’s hiding…
Approximately 95,000 words
For each book release I like to prepare a series of posts for Facebook discussing various book-related things. Here, then, are the posts for the release week for Undecided.
I did a decidedly fun interview with Itching for Books - check it out here!
POST FOUR - PACE YOURSELF
I give a lot of thought to structure when I’m plotting a book. I want to make sure things are happening in a reasonable, orderly, and interesting way, and that my pacing isn’t too fast or too slow. I generally draw out a little three-act chart and map the major story points, then fill in the details as I go along.
One of the first scenes I envisioned before I ever started writing was the scene at the Halloween party. This is the mid-point (halfway mark) of Undecided. Because school starts in early September, that was Labor Day. Hmm, I thought. Interesting. Why don’t I use holidays to mark the major story beats? And so…
INCITING INCIDENT: Labor Day
2nd ACT TURNING POINT/CLIMAX: Chrisgiving (you’ll see)
RESOLUTION: Valentine’s Day
I skipped the 1st Act Turning Point in this example because it doesn’t happen on a holiday. In fact, I was not aware of any holidays (in the US) between Labor Day and Halloween until I googled them just this instant. I suppose National Grandparents Day, Columbus Day, or National White Cane Safety Day are all good options, but it’s too late now. (For the record: I’m Canadian and while I’ve heard of Columbus Day, I honestly had no idea it was in October.) Anyway, if you’re curious, the 1st Act TP is the day Crosbie helps Nora build her bed. That’s the moment readers are supposed to think, “Aww. There’s no going back now! Crosbie + Nora 4-ever.”
Crosbie sort of outlines this holiday structure toward the end of the story, but I thought I’d mention it here so you’d know I thought of it first. It was all my idea.
Read an exclusive excerpt here:
Signed paperback copies now available! Click here for details.
5 stars from Roxy at A Bookish Sports Fan:
Nora and Crosbie are very relatable characters, and I haven't felt a connection with characters in a book in such a long time, that it was refreshing to fall in love with these two. Even the co-characters. Marcela and Kellan were funny side characters! I felt like I was a part of their journey. Read more here!
POST ONE - NAME CALLING
The working title for Undecided was Love the One You’re With. That’s actually still what the Word file is called. I used it mostly because it was the first thing that came to me and stuck. But I had my doubts, chief among them being that I’d read an Emily Giffin book by the same title and even though these stories had nothing in common, it still felt like copying. A search on Goodreads showed several more books with that name, and when choosing a title, one of the concerns is finding something that is both appropriate for the story, and not likely to be confused with others. (Especially when those “others” are huge authors whose search results are going to bump yours down to page 117.)
I don’t actually remember when Undecided occurred to me, but when it did, I knew I had a battle on my hands. I really liked Love the One You’re With. I’d been calling the book that for months, and every time I thought about it I sang the chorus to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song of the same name. I wished someone would do a mashup of that song and Van Halen’s “Crazy Love.” How great would that be? Why aren’t I more musical? What else can I do to procrastinate?
What ultimately tipped the scales in favour of Undecided was theme. The entire New Adult genre is about people at an age and time in their life when they’re discovering who they’re meant to be. They don’t have to make a decision—they have to make choices. Mistakes. They try things, some work, some don’t. Some find what they’re looking for right away, some take a bit longer. And since the Undecided of the title isn’t expressly a statement of Nora’s romantic choices but rather her life choices—or lack thereof, as it may be—it ended up winning by a landslide. (And by landslide I mean my one vote.)
Some people have criticized the cover/title combination of giving the impression of a love triangle (there isn’t one), and I see their point. But the story is also about not judging a book by its cover. (I’m, like, super meta.) Nora assumes Kellan is one thing, Crosbie another, and they view her as something else altogether. But given time, they learn about each other and themselves, and grow up. Sorta.
The biggest “downside” to this title choice is not the love triangle assumption, but the fact that whenever people ask me what my book is called and I say Undecided, they think I mean that I haven’t chosen a title yet. So when I say the title out loud, it sounds more like, “The title of my book is Undecided. Like, that’s the actual title. Undecided. Not the status. I have a name. It’s Undecided. That’s—Oh, dammit.”
5 stars from the Book Mafia:
Every single character in this story was well built, complex and felt real. Not flashy, overly dramatic or oozing shock factor, this book has a quiet but powerful love story that starts out like a normal everyday relationship. The passion and the intensity slowly (but not too slowly) build up and when it gets hot...it’s hot. Read more here!
5 stars from Gaele at I Am, Indeed:
Character driven and missing the angst of wishy washy heroines, boys who can’t commit and that all too common eenie meenie miney mo love triangles that play out throughout the story, Keyes has created a smart, clever story that presented real life situations for characters who are learning from their mistakes and growing up. Read more here!
5 stars from Jasmine at Not a Picky Reader:
The thing I loved most about this book was how I thought it was going to be a little insta-love/insta-lust, love triangle drama before the plot turned a direction that felt both completely natural and also unexpected. The relationships between Nora, Crosbie, and Kellan didn't develop exactly as I thought it would, which is why I think I enjoyed this book as much as I did. Read more here!
5 stars From Alyssa at The Eater of Books:
One of my favorite aspects of reading a contemporary romance novel (across any age level - YA, NA, adult) is watching the characters fall in love. The physical part of the relationship in this book starts around the 50% mark, and holy guacamole those two. Nora and Crosbie sizzle and steam and burn together. This New Adult book is really hot - even for your average NA book. Read more of this awesome review here!
4 stars from Kristen D. at Romance & Smut:
Undecided is a delightful book about two college folks learning who they are, who they want to be, and how they can help each other get there...it’s all the best parts of the genre, without some of the things that make me throw NA books across the room. Read it all right here!
5 stars from Julie at Little Miss Bookmark:
If I had to describe this book in one word, I would use the word effortless. The flow of the story was completely seamless. It went from one plot point to the next without the reader even noticing. I was completely carried away by the happenings between Crosbie and Nora. The way that Keyes constructed these two characters is what makes me love reading. Read more here!
4 stars from Gina at Pink Lace & Silver Buckles:
Julianna Keyes’s Undecided was just what I was looking for. It’s fun. It’s flirty. It’s flipping sexy... I found myself laughing out loud at moments and then sweating from the steam between Nora and Crosbie. Read the rest here!
POST FIVE - NOW YOU SEE IT
I may have mentioned this before, but for those who don’t know, I went to film school. ($13,000 well spent, says the girl who does not work in film.) In terms of a career in screenwriting, I would describe this investment as “not successful,” but even though I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, I learned a lot. I learned about storytelling, structure, plot, pacing, character development, and how to handle brutal criticisms, among other things. One of the biggest lessons you learn about storytelling is the importance of SHOW DON’T TELL. It’s so important I’m writing it in capital letters.
Maybe I wouldn’t notice this if it hadn’t been drilled into me in school, and maybe I’d read along happily being told things instead of shown them. But now that I’m aware of it, I can’t stop noticing when authors tell me how characters are feeling/changing/reacting when actions can do it so much better. One of the best examples we saw in school was from the movie Kramer vs. Kramer (well, the script). The mother leaves and the totally unprepared father is now responsible for raising a little boy. They try to make French toast and fail epically. The kitchen’s a mess, the toast burns, everybody’s unhappy. At the end of the story, however, they make French toast in perfect sync. They’re a team now. Nobody needs to write “After months of living together they’d found a system that worked and made everybody happy and improved their quality of life.” Seeing is believing, as they say, and I believed.
When I wrote the first draft of In Her Defense I didn’t include the company party scene at the end, and upon re-reading I knew something important was missing. Then it finally dawned on me: the party! Now normally I wouldn’t think it’s a brilliant idea to show someone’s character arc over two books (especially when they’re not the main character in both books), but because Caitlin’s role at the party in book one was so memorable (for all the wrong reasons), I thought seeing her in the same situation but behaving completely differently would really showcase her growth as a person.
I’ve tried to do something like this in Undecided, but instead of telling you what I did, let’s see if YOU can tell ME. First person with the right answer gets a signed print copy!
WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR: There are three scenes in which something similar happens and in each scene Crosbie responds/reacts differently. Nothing to do with magic. Everything to do with his character arc.
By now you’ve had all week to read, and if your week has been too busy, you’ll have the weekend. If no one gets this by Monday, I’ll tell you the answer and buy a gift for myself. We all win! (Just kidding—only I win.)
This post can only be commented on at my Facebook page. It will be dated April 8, 2016 for those who are curious about the answer.