Jen Calonita loves to tell stories. When she was a kid, she’d write short stories about her friends and their lives. Jen remembers including their love of their favorite boy band members and getting a kick out of her friends’ reactions.
That could be why she enjoys her latest book, “VIP: Battle of the Bands,” so much — that or the fact that she loved the New Kids on the Block when she was a tween.
“Battle of the Bands” is the second book in Jen’s VIP series, which follows Mackenzie Lowell as she travels on the road with her favorite boy band.
What could be better than writing about boy bands? For Jen, not much. Growing up, her heart belonged to Joey McIntyre. It belonged to him so much that she once wrote him a poem asking him to come to a school dance, and his mom wrote back. Jen still has the postcard.
“When I was 12, my dream in life would have been for my mom to get a job with New Kids on the Block and take me on the road with them! ”Jen told Cracking the Cover. “That didn’t happen, but I know so many people who would love that life. Having spent time on the road with many bands when I worked at a teen entertainment magazine, I took my love of boy bands and what I learned on the road and mashed them together to form VIP. I love writing about Mac and her favorite boy band, Perfect Storm.”
The best thing about boy bands, Jen says, is that each guy in the band fit a different personality type. In New Kids, Donnie was the bad, boy and Joey was sweet and charming. “I find when I talk to teens about bands like 5 Seconds of Summer, R5 and One Direction, their feelings for the bands are the same ones I had for my band,” she said. “You fall for the music, then the guy behind the song and it’s easy to get caught up in wondering what it would be like if you someday met them.”
Which is exactly where Jen’s main character, Mac, finds herself prior to joining Perfect Storm on the road. “Mac is the closest I’ve ever come to writing a character that is like me at that age,” Jen said. “I was a bit shy, I was obsessed with a band, and I wrote everything down in a journal. One difference: I cannot draw and Mac is an excellent comic book artist.”
The VIP books are a departure for Jen who has also written six young adult books and the popular Fairy Tale Reform School series for middle-graders. There are at least three more books planned in the Fairy Tale Reform School series, and she’s currently polishing the third book, “Tricked,” which will come out next March 2017. It follows what happens when Rumplestiltskin tries to take over the school.
While there are no more VIP books in the works, Jen won’t rule out writing another one. “Battle of the Bands is the last one for now, but remember: Bands like to talk about taking a hiatus a lot and then they go back on tour. I’d love to write more about Mac and Perfect Storm if the time is right!”
In the meantime, Jen is happily basking in praise from readers. “I love when readers tell me they enjoy my books and I find the younger the reader, the more excited the response,” she said. “I’ve had so much fun writing for middle grade readers these past two years.”
“VIP: Battle of the Bands,” is available for preorder now and will be released July 26.
Learn more about Jen Calonita by reading the complete transcript of her interview with Cracking the Cover.
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