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Title:The Serious Kiss
Author: Mary Hogan
Genre: Young adults (14 and up)
ISBN: 006072207X
Reviewer: Dian Moore

Libby Madrigal has one big goal to accomplish before the end of her freshman year of high school and thatís to get a "serious kiss." The kind a girl will remember all her life. With good taste and humor, as well as a good dose of family values thrown in, author Mary Hogan explores the anxiety of a teenager dealing with first love, family problems, friendships and growing up.

Donít let the title fool you; this little book is so much more than a story about being kissed. Itís a tale of a teenager coming of age in a dysfunctional family the likes of which we all know a member of in our own. Instantly, I was transported back to my own teenage years, my total disregard for the wisdom of my parents and their decisions and the later understanding that yes, they just might know more than I do, and it would all turn out all right.

The cover is delightful enough to cause many hands to pick up this book; but the content will keep the book in the readerís hands. Not just for young adults, adults also will enjoy the story and recognize themselves as this family struggles to understand life and deal with the tragedy of alcoholism and its effects on a family. Hogan manages to cover family estrangement, marital strife, teen life, bankruptcy, acceptance, and more in a short 256 pages.

KISS brings laugh-out-loud situations to life and its young heroine is smart with a dry wit. Iíd like to see more of Libby and characters like her who bring understanding to the areas of real life we all would rather not face. With humor, realism, wisdom and insight, author Mary Hogan has managed to entertain and comfort at the same time without resorting to profanity, promiscuity and pop culture.

Bravo to Hogan. Find out whatís new with the author and interact online at Hoganís website Ė http://www.maryhogan.com/seriouskiss.htm

* * *

Interview with Mary Hogan, author of The Serious Kiss
Interviewed for FaithWritersí Magazine by Dian Moore

Mary Hogan lives in New York City with her husband, Bob, and a dog named Axel. She has been writing for several years and has held such gigs as an editor at ĎTEEN Magazine, freelanced for Sassy, Seventeen, 'TEEN (of course) as well as women's magazines such as Family Circle, Parenting, New Woman, Woman, First For Women and Fitness. At one point, she landed a job writing an episode for a TV show starring Jane Curtain titled "Working it Out," but the show was cancelled before Hoganís episode was shot. She spent a brief time writing for TV Guide Online before returning to her first love of writing novels.

FWM: Hi Mary. Thank you for the fun book! I read it in one sitting and laughed out loud at parts and got teary at some others. Great job.

I notice in your bio that you have been writing for the teen audience for quite some time. When did you start writing?

MARY: I wrote my first novel in the third gradeÖan illustrated mini-novel called, Eggward, the Unwanted Egg. It was about an unhappy egg who rolled away from home. He got scrambled in traffic and fried on the sidewalk. Clearly, I was a drama queen even as a kid.

FWM: In THE SERIOUS KISS you have introduced a sassy, lovable heroine in Libby Madrigal. Where did you find your inspiration for this character? How much of yourself is in her?

MARY: Since this is my first published novel (no, Eggward never rolled into bookstores!), I definitely began with a girl similar to the kind of girl I was in middle schoolóa bit nerdy, always longing for love. But, very quickly, Libby took on a life of her own. I was often amazed at her perseverance in the face of calamity. I found myself rooting for her a lot.

FWM: Readers will start out thinking KISS is a comedy, but really, itís an exploration of the all-to-common dysfunctional family in todayís society. What prompted you to address alcoholism and its effects on the entire family unit?

MARY: My goal in writing for young adults is to write REAL-LIFE stories from the unique perspective of a kid. And, real life is often funny, tragic, confusing, joyous. Kids really get that... it speaks to what they see around them. But, to answer your question specifically, I did grow up in an alcoholic family so I understand the chaos there. I knew I could write an authentic book about growing up in that kind of family. Iíve received a lot of emails from kids as well as adults whoíve had childhoods where secrets and shame dominate the family landscape. This book seems to have struck a chord.

FWM: Libby, the heroine in KISS, faces so many things that would devastate a typical teenager, but throughout she learns the importance of family and forgiveness, honesty and acceptance. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend KISS to Christian parents who are in search of good reading material for their teenagers. What would you like audiences of all ages, religions, races and family situations to take away from KISS.

MARY: Ultimately, in this story, the family wins out. In fact, in many ways, Libby's mother is the heroine of the book. She does what she has to do to keep her family together. By the end of the story, you have hope for everyone. Which is really the message I most want to convey. HOPE. No matter how dire things get (and ALL families hit rough patches that feel hopeless), hanging in there will pay off. Libby's family gets the help they need to survive. Libby, herself, sees a new life blossoming before her. In the end, the whole family is bonded more closely together.

FWM: So you like reading in bed while everyoneís asleep. What do you like to read?

MARY: Everything! I read a lot of young adult novels to keep up with the market. But, when I give in to my real reading passion, itís True Crime. Right now, Iím reading a great new book called THE LOBOTOMIST, by Jack El-Hai. Itís not True Crime, but it is about the doctor who invented the lobotomy "cure" for mental illness. My secret is now outóIím a closet ghoul.

FWM: Tell us a bit about the writing process you went through with KISS, from the planting of the seed of the idea to the final publication.

MARY: I wrote four YA novels before The Serious Kiss was published. KISS was number two. I just kept chipping away at the impossible dream. My whole path to publication was "one step forward, two steps back." My first agent died. My second agent dumped me after only a couple of rejections. My current agent, Laura Langlie, was the first light in a long, dark tunnel. She helped me whip The Serious Kiss into shape. But, throughout it all, I kept writing. Which Iím completely grateful for. Iíve since sold three of the four novels. The firstÖwell, I consider it my "pancake" novel. You always have to throw out the first, weird, misshapen one.

FWM: The grandmotherís living arrangement is unique in KISS. Where did the idea of living in a kitchen come about?

MARY: I LOVE food!!! But, besides that, I wanted the inside of Nanaís trailer to be a world onto itself. Sort of like walking into Oz. Only in my version of Oz, the Munchkins are making delicious dishes.

FWM: Now that KISS is in stores and you are on tour, what new ideas are brewing?

MARY: Iíll definitely keep writing in the Young Adult genre. I absolutely love writing characters that are 14 or 15Öold enough to understand everything thatís going on around them, but too young to have any control over it. Itís the perfect cauldron for conflict to bubble up. As for new ideas,Östay tuned. They are on the way!

FWM: Feel free to comment on anything youíd like about The Serious Kiss that hasnít been covered.

MARY: Without sounding too hokey, my HarperCollins editor, Amanda Maciel, had a huge impact on The Serious Kiss. She really contributed a lot to what readers see in the bookstore. I feel as though weíre partners; her suggestions push me to become a better writer.

That said, I also want to mention how much I love feedback from readers. Even readers who donít like The Serious Kiss. Hearing from readers is how I grow. So, let Ďer rip! Post a review on my website Ė www.maryhogan.com

Thanks, Dian. Itís been a pleasure chatting with you!

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