Friday, May 12, 2017

Blog Tour: Shatter by Nikki Trionfo, Author Interview and Review

Title: Shatter
Author: Nikki Trionfo
Genre: YA Mystery
Publisher: Cedar Fort


“We never knew there could be people in the orchard. Dangerous people.”

When a mysterious explosion kills her sister, Salem becomes convinced the death was no accident--it was a conspiracy. But no one else at her high school believes her, and all she has so far are theories and clues. With Carrie's killers still out there, Salem's not sure who she can trust. If she can't she prove she’s right before it’s too late, the conspiracy might take another life—hers.

Author Q&A

Doesn't Shatter sound awesome? I'm here with author Nikki Trionfo, talking about her newly released YA murder mystery.

Q: Thank you for coming onto my blog today. What was your favorite part of writing Shatter?

A: To be honest, learning about my own prejudices was my favorite part. I won’t give away too much to avoid spoilers, but I will say one of the characters was originally supposed to be a villain. About a quarter of the way into the book, I ached for him the way I had ached for my trouble students as a teacher. I felt like I understood why he made so many bad choices. I realized that as author I had written a plot that didn’t allow him to ever make positive changes in his life. I believe in positive change. So I tweaked the premise of the book and rewrote a lot. A lot. But it was worth it. I hope real teens know they have a chance to change if they fight for it.

Q: What gave you the idea for the story?

A: Veronica Mars, the TV show. I love that show with the kind of passion that makes full-grown women look like dorks. After lots of daydreaming about Veronica Mars, I wanted to write a book where, instead of a private-investigator case going along with the main mystery like in VM, it was a mock trial case going along with the main mystery. I languished on plot, though. I couldn't think of a setting! It's a strange thing to get hung up on. I tried several--Chicago, D.C., etc.
A year later, I read a book called There is Power in a Union by Philip Dray. Fascinating history. It concluded with the stories of some of the failed farm strikes in my native California. My grandpa was an orchard owner and I grew up alongside the kids of migrant workers.
I wasn't sure I was brave enough to tackle a tense subject matter that hit close to home, but I couldn't stop researching and writing. Every minute of living inside Shatter's world felt very real to me.

Q: What inspired you to become a writer?

A: My husband and I weren’t able to have kids for the first four years of our marriage. I was so worried I'd never be a mom that I took a writing class to "find something to do." Proving its sense of humor, life sent me five children over the next eight years. I kept with writing because I’d landed on a writing group that made the best TV show recommendations ever (Veronica Mars, hello?). Plus, the other writers were hilarious and I wanted to be hilarious, so I basically tried to copy their lives.

Q: How long have you been writing officially?

A: Well, I attended that writing group I mentioned for two to three years without actually writing. I finally eked out a manuscript with the sketchiest of endings. The story didn’t even make sense. I finished that ten years ago. But I wanted it to be good. That’s when I got serious. I started going to writing conferences. I applied to and was accepted into a writing group with REAL! LIVE! AUTHORS! I got a big-name agent. I got broken up with by my big-name agent. I wrote three manuscripts. You know, the whole she-bang.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am NOT working on a sequel to Shatter because that would be dumb since the ability to release a sequel will depend on sales. Shhhhh.

Q: If you could cast your main character (s) as celebrities who would you choose?

A: Holy cow, that is so much pressure! I would die if I had that much pressure placed on me!

For Salem: If I could have a young Kristen Bell play Salem, I would die. (My life is pretty much hanging by a thread at this point.) In actual reality land, I’d pick Hunter King or Olivia Holt.

For Cordero: Okay, Maluma isn’t even an actor. He’s a Columbian singer. But, again, I’d die. Oh, oh! And I’d have to rewrite half the scenes so that he’s required to sing soulfully in the background with a brooding expression. His latest hit Sin Contrato is on my playlist for Shatter, during the chapter where Cordero really speaks to Salem for the first time. *Warning: I put the lyrics version of that song on the playlist for a reason. Not for sensitive eyes.*

Q: What does a typical writing day look like for you?

A: Drag self from bed at the instance of my eight-year-old. Get kids ready for school. Type. Pick up son from preschool. Lunch. Have a friend over for him. Type while they play. Ferry kids after school to practices. Make dinner, curse chores. Hang with my husband who goes to sleep early to coach CrossFit in the morning. Type until hopefully no later than midnight. These days a lot of my writing is spent creating marketing material. Blog posts, launch party invitations, newsletters, FB announcements, coordinating the LDStorymakers conference, etc. I’m on the committee.

Q: What is the hardest thing about writing?

A: Finding the time for it. I love writing.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Aside from write, write, write, I’d say to be kind in your thoughts to people who are establishing themselves in the art of writing and in the marketplace of being an author. Rather than seeing them as wannabes, support them. Give them a hand. Love them despite their gaffs. Realize they are humans who hopefully someday will be great at what they do. That way, when you’re lucky enough to start establishing your own name, you have firm practice in how to see yourself. As a human who hopefully someday will be great at what you do

Q. How did you learn so much about peach growers and strikes? Have you lived in California before?

A. Yup. I grew up in central California. My grandpa owned an orchard. We (he) hired migrant laborers. I sometimes hung out with the the kids of migrant laborers. My first date (to Winter Formal) was with a guy named Oscar. He was deported when we were twenty. It's a very sad story. Our orchard is actually an almond orchard, which is more common in central California, but peach orchards rely more on labor than almond orchards. A strike would be more catastrophic for a peach orchard, so for Shatter I choose peaches. Plus, it sort of harkens to Grapes of Wrath, which also helped inspired Shatter.

A lot of Shatter is rooted in my childhood fears. The group of people I feared the most as a kid were Hispanic gang guys. My parents owned a small rental house in town. When an 8-year-old was shot through the wall in a house, we thought it was the son from our rental. Turns out it was the neighbor, but my dad went over there and I was just terrified. I was around 11. I have a lot of memories about Hispanic gang members showing off their guns to impress us girls. But I also was friends with lots of other Hispanics, including my best friend. Humble classmates working from three a.m. to six a.m. under the table to help support their families while still making grades and joining sports teams. I lived for a summer in Puerto Rico and speak Spanish. I love the Hispanic culture. I still am not "part of it" though. I’ll always be an outsider. I think being an outsider is fun and encourages emotional growth, but can cause strong emotions like vulnerability and loneliness and the temptation to judge. I drew on all of that in creating the Shatter world. Shatter represents my hope that even a “gang guy” can make something of his life, especially if someone, even someone hurt by a gang member like Salem, reaches out to help.

Q: Before you go, can you give us an excerpt of Shatter?

A: But of course! And thanks for having me!


The class is dead silent. Mr. White’s lips tighten. He swallows. There’s something dangerous about the new guy. The teacher leans over AddyDay’s desk and spins her packet so he can read the list of partnerships. “Fine. We’ll break up the threesome. You’ll pair with . . . Salem Jefferson.” At the sound of my name, I turn to look at my new partner. The guy near the door is tall. He has the kind of incredible good looks that invite stares, but that’s not the only reason he’s getting them now. The cursive lettering of a tattoo rises from the opening of the guy’s worn flannel shirt. Two gold chains hang from his brown neck. A guy accessorized in gang paraphernalia, not caked with it. His only completely visible marking is an upside down V inked onto his right cheekbone, black and distinct. The tattoo calls my attention for some reason, even though I’m sure I’ve never seen a symbol like that before. An upside down V . . . it seems so familiar. His expressionless, dark eyes dart to meet my gaze from under a stiff, backward-facing ball cap. My classmates watch him stare at me. “Salem Jefferson,” he says slowly, putting a slight emphasis on my last name. He waits for my response. I realize he knows exactly who Salem Jefferson is. Exactly who I am. I’m Carrie’s sister. Terrified, I whirl back around to face forward. Gang members targeted Carrie, made her frightened. Was he one of them? The skin between my shoulder blades tightens. Why were gang guys after Carrie?


This book was intense and fast-paced. The writing was polished and professional but still felt YA. I loved Salem. I liked it that she doubted herself so much in the beginning. I loved watching her determination and her fear. The author created a terrifying blend of circumstances for Salem as she fought to discover the truth behind her sister's tragic death. The plot was expertly woven to keep my attention and the details of the story felt well-researched and all too real. The fight between the union workers and the peach growers felt authentic, and I liked it that both sides had weaknesses. Even some of Salem's high school friends were getting out of hand and crossing lines.

The character development in this book was spot on. Throughout the story, Salem grew from a girl constantly questioning herself to realizing that she really was much stronger than she first believed. It was a message that really spoke to me personally. 

I found it an interesting choice to make the love interest in this book a gang member, and I actually liked it that he didn't really become an obvious love interest until well into the story. That felt genuine to me. So many books have characters swooning over a guy's muscles right off the bat, but this story really allowed the relationship to build organically between the characters. 

Overall, I would recommend this book to others. But clear some time in your schedule, because once it sucks you in, you won't be doing much else for a while. 

**Five Stars**

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Before You Go

Nikki has got tons of cool links for Shatter lovers. Check them out!

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