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Tell us about yourself:
My name is Hillary Homzie, and I’m a middle grade author who lives in Northern California with my family (three sons, a husband a giant labradoodle). During the year, I teach online at the Children’s Book Academy (Middle Grade Mastery and The Chapter Book Alchemist courses) and during the summer I teach in the summer MFA program in Children’s Literature, Writing and Illustration at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. I was born in Denver, Colorado, raised in Charlottesville, Virginia (with a stop in Menlo Park, California and Lewes, Sussex, England along the way). I have a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in education from Temple University and master’s degree in children’s literature & Writing from Hollins University. In my early twenties, I wrote and performed sketch comedy and I like to use a good dose of humor in my writing. My seventh book, Queen of Likes (Aladdin MIX/ Simon & Schuster) debuts this month. It’s about phone-addicted seventh grader Karma Cooper whose sense self-worth is based way too much on the number of LIKES she gets for her posts. When her parents take away her phone and cut off her social media account, Karma needs to figure out what she actually likes. While it’s a highly entertaining and fun read, I think it will also be a great book for mothers and daughters to discuss!
What was your first book?
My first book was Two Heads Are Better Than One (Book 1, Alien Clones From Outers Space chapter book series, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster) under the name H.B. Homzie. It was a humorous chapter book geared toward kids 6-9. It chronicled the antics of Barton and Nancy Jamison, twins, who discover that they have alien clones, Beta and Gamma, from the Planet Zeekwarplazatot who are here to learn about Earth life. The kids use their clones to do all sorts of things like chores and homework, only it doesn’t work out too well. For example, when Barton has Beta to play baseball for him and the coach tells the clone to run home home—well, the clone actually runs home. It’s very silly and fun.
Describe your first break.
I was volunteering for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBW& I) when I lived in Philadelphia. I was very eager and showed up at every conference asking how I could help. The regional advisor, Susan Campbell Bartoletti (and now Newbery award honoree), noticed my can-do eager attitude. She told me she had too many projects on her plate and asked if I would be interested in taking one off her to-do list. It was to write a travel book for kids about Philadelphia, called Kidding Around Philadelphia. I jumped at the chance. I was paid to take around my then infant son to every cool spot in the Greater Philadelphia Area. What a blast! The publisher, John Muir Books, ended up getting bought by a larger company so the project was never published, but I was paid and had so much fun. I will always be grateful to Susan and if I ever have too many projects, I promise to pay it forward as well!
What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
That is such a great question. I love reading about any sort of intelligent character who is perhaps overlooked or in a low status position yet is full of natural spunk that she hasn’t necessarily had a chance to fully unleash. The character, through some trial, gains a sense of self-worth and steps into power when she learns to speak up and not be afraid. I love to read anything with a fairy tale-ish feel. Witty dialogue is definitely a plus, since I love to laugh. My tastes are really wide-ranging! I love anything written by Shannon Hale, author of the Princess Academy, a wonderful middle grade series, Gail Carson Levine, the author of Ella Enchanted or Clare B. Dunkle, especially her Hollow Kingdom, a YA fantasy series that’s full of adventure and romance. I lalso love Boy Proof, a YA by Cecil Castellucci. In addition, I really enjoy the adult historical romance novels of Mary Balogh, although I only have a tendency to read them on vacation. In terms of my favorite genre to write, I think my natural voice is upper middle grade verging on young adult. I love all the excitement that goes with just stepping into independence and just a touch of romance (although I would say that Queen of Likes is light in the romance department—more like just a crush).
Are Happy Endings are must in your stories?
Oh, gosh yes! I love fairy tale endings, stories where characters deal with lots of adversity but in the end it’s all right. I hate it when the news focuses on all the bad stuff that’s happening in the world because it’s unbalanced. I want a book that ultimately is uplifting and makes me feel as if the world is full of promise and hope and light.
What makes a protagonist interesting?
Another great question. I think it’s a combination of having a relatable flaw (in Karma’s case, she’s so desperate for approval (LIKES) that she abandons the idea of considering of what she actually likes), as well as having agency, as in doing something about your situation (Karma takes a photography classes to find out what she wants to photograph and volunteers for a historical society).
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Getting to wear pajamas all day if you want to!
What is the worst thing?
Unless you make an effort it can be very isolating and you can end up the sort of person who never gets out of her p.j.s.!
Pantser or plotter?
I’m a combo. I get an idea, see where it takes me. Probably write a chapter and a bit and then start trying to figure out my plot. Write some more. Then plot some more.
What do you see the direction of your future writing taking? What can we expect next? Give us a little taste.
I’m working a new contemporary tween novel with a hint of magic. Actually my first novel for tweens, Things Are Gonna Get Ugly (think Freaky Friday-ish sort of plot except it’s about a middle school fashionista who abandons her younger book-ish self and magically ends up back as her book-ish self again and an outcast from her popular friends).
Just for fun
Cat or dog person?
Naturally, a cat person but these days living the life of a dog person.
popcorn but I can’t eat too much because my body’s not too happy
Pride and Prejudice
Any version of Pride and Prejudice
Would you rather be the princess or the villain? Why?
Princess but not one who was raised as a princess. I’d like to be a normal person who discovers she’s a princess so I don’t get all spoiled. Sounds like a good book. Oh, wait. It was. Princess Diaries!
Who has more fun, orcs or hobbits?
Well, since I consider fun anything that would be conducive to curling up in a hobbit hole-ish location (reading and writing) I think it’s hobbits. But orcs, since they are brutish and aggressive, definitely would keep life interesting. But personally, I’d only want to read about an orc not meet one!
Like everyone at Merton Middle School, Karma Cooper’s smartphone is almost another body part. She’s obsessed with her LIKES on Snappypic. When her parents shut down her social media account and take away her smartphone, Karma’s whole world crumbles. She has to figure out what she actually likes and how to live life fully unplugged. This book will jumpstart conversations about how social media is changing the ways tweens are growing up.
Where are all my likes? I refresh the page. And . . .
I shake my phone as if that might help.
This doesn’t make sense. I used the filter that everyone else on Snappypic is really into. It makes everything seem dreamy. But with only 45 LIKES, the sun is losing its brilliance and looks lonely and unloved.
Maybe I need to turn it off and on?
I turn off my phone and restart it. I text Ella Fuentes: Did you see my photo? I add a smiling emoji.
I know Ella’s up. It’s late morning. She’s my best friend. Maybe she’s reading or drawing, but she’s definitely up.
If she wasn’t doing something else, I’m sure she’d like my photo. I try a couple of other girls I know. Nothing. It’s late Saturday morning and all my followers have to be up by now.
As of 11:07 a.m. today, I have 12,032 followers on Snappypic. My followers are pretty much all the kids at Merton Middle School and a bunch of other middle schools around Portland. But I have two middle schools in Mission Viejo. That’s all the way down in Southern California. I didn’t know where it was until I checked it out in Google Maps. Usually between four hundred and nine hundred followers give me a thumbs-up on anything I post. So yeah, I get more LIKES than anyone I know at school.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this is happening to me.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Hillary is the author of the tween novel, THE HOT LIST (Simon & Schuster/M!X) which Booklist says “captures the angst of young teen friendships and fragile identities.” She’s also the author of the middle grade novel, THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/M!X), a Justice Book-of-the-Month, which was just optioned by Priority Pictures, and the forthcoming QUEEN OF LIKES (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X, April 2016), which is about social media, as well as the humorous chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), a Children's Book-of-the-Month Best Books for Children. Emmy-nominated Suppertime Entertainment developed the books to become an animated television series and it was sold to ABC Australia. Hillary’s young adult fiction has been published in TEEN MAGAZINE and anthologized (MUDDVILLE DIARIES, Avon Books). She has sold non-fiction and fiction projects to Klutz Press/Scholastic Books, The Learning Company and John Muir Books. With her frequent writing partner, Steven Arvanites, she has had film projects developed by Brooklyn Weaver’s Energy Entertainment. Hillary got her start performing and writing sketch comedy Off-Broadway, and was a Heideman Playwrighting Award Finalist. Hillary holds a master's degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children's literature and writing. Currently, she’s a visiting professor of children’s literature and writing at Hollins University. Visit her on the web at www.hillaryhomzie.com and follow her on
Twitter @HillaryHomzie and visit her on
Queen of Likes buy Links: