Interview with debut author Joy N. Hensley, plus a RITES OF PASSAGE swag giveaway

Today, we're chatting with Joy N. Hensley, debut author of RITES OF PASSAGE (just released this Wednesday!). In her interview, Joy shares a little about the inspiration for her book and her dare-devil past (she went to military college ON A DARE) and also has a dare for you - if you're willing to take it!

Read on to learn more about Joy and you'll also find out how to win some of the coolest swag ever. 


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Born and raised in Virginia, Joy spent time wandering up and down the East Coast before settling back down. From being a barista to editing, writing commercials for television to being a middle school/high school English teacher, there's nothing she’s not willing to try. That includes going to military school (on a dare), hiking 600 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and playing in 
the muddy Chesapeake Bay with her students! 

A 2003 graduate of Greensboro College, she received the Excellence in English award for her fiction and poetry. In 2007 she graduated from Long Ridge Writers Group's Breaking Into Print class, and in 2009 she finished their Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel classes. 

Now, between reading, watching the CW and putting Veronica Mars, The OC, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on repeat, hiking, kayaking, walking, doing obstacle course races and having fun with her husband and two sons, she continues to write. She is represented by Mandy Hubbard at 
D4EO Literary Agency. 


JNH: First, thanks so much for letting me jump on the YA Buccaneers site for the day! I'm so thrilled about Rites coming out and am equally thrilled that others are excited, too!

BG: Well thanks for joining us! We <3 daredevils, and we love YA - so that makes you a perfect fit for us! First, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started as a writer? What do you like to do when you're not writing?

JNH: Well, I'm a mom of two boys and the wife of a kilt-wearing Aussie. Can my life be any more amazing than that right there? But I'm guessing you'd like a little bit more, so here goes. I grew up knowing I wanted to be a writer. I remember the first story I wrote, the first teacher who motivated me. I just *knew* it was going to happen someday. Someday was a lot longer than I expected, but it's finally here! My kids keep me busy (even when it's "mommy's writing time") but we love to spend time reading, playing outside, and going on walks/hikes. My oldest wants to "be a writer like Mommy" so when I'm in my writing room, he comes in too and writes stories on notebook paper. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen because I was only two years older than he is now when I realized I wanted to be a writer. I remember the first story I wrote, the first teacher who believed in me--becoming a writer has taken a long time for me, but it's happened at the right time, too. When I'm not writing I love to read and watch television (sad, but true). I love being outside with my boys and going hiking. And I love love love obstacle course runs. I'm not a fast runner and I walk most of those races, but I LOVE them.

BG: Wow - sounds like a packed life!

What kind of books do you love to read? Any favorite recent reads you'd like to mention?

JNH: I love to read contemporary YA--Anything by Katie McGarry, Trish Doller, Amanda Grace, and Miranda Kenneally I pick up without hesitation. I'm a bit over vampires at the moment, but my go-to paranormal books are by Brigid Kemmerer. The Elemental series is phenomenal. I also love fantasy, though I read that more as a kid. I'm getting back into it now, though and am enjoying SJ Mass, Jodi Meadows, and Sarah Raasch. There is one book I've read once a year since I was 16 and keep it on a shelf near me at all times--Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. I'm also really getting into NA, too, and I love reading authors like Lia Riley who are taking NA and up-ing the ante. Not making the love interests just alpha males, but making them deep and with flaws of their own. With all that said, if someone recommends a book and loves it I'm willing to give it a chance!

BG: OUTLANDER! One of my absolute favorites! No wonder you're married to that kilt-wearing Aussie. :D


Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.


BG: [Side note to readers: The next questions will make more sense if you read the synopsis (above) first!] Did you attend a military academy as a teen? If not, how did you research them for your book?

JNH: I actually got the idea for Rites of Passage from a dare I took when I was 19, to spend a year at a military university. One of my best friends bet me $25 I wouldn't last the year. So, all the research is pretty much from my e-mails to my parents throughout the year I was there.

BG: Whaaaat? I had no idea RITES OF PASSAGE was based on your real-life experience. You went to military school to win a $25 bet?! Um. Wow.

So ... what was military school like? How did your experiences shape Sam's story? 

JNH: At military school, everything was about proving myself. My university has had females since the 70s. I was one of about 30 females in my "Rook" class, compared to about 300 males. Even after all this time, there's still a sense by some cadets that women aren't wanted. Though I never got [spoilered] or [spoilered], my year was certainly not easy. Nothing was made easy for the females, if anything, we had to work harder to get where the boys were. While most cadets were at least accepting of female cadets, there were a few who made their thoughts on the matter known. I may have based a certain corporal in Rites off of one of my cadre...

BG: I can only imagine how intense that would be. You are hard core, Joy!

Now we know you have a weakness for dares. :) What's the best dare you've ever taken and/or given?

JNH: Once when I was in high school a boy I had a crush on dared me to jump from the second story of this house into the garage--it was being built at the time. My parents weren't thrilled that I landed on a nail, even less thrilled that I pulled it out and waited a day or two to tell them so I wouldn't get in trouble. Best  dare, though, would definitely be the military school dare! I never got my $25 for winning it, but I got a book deal, so I think I win all around. :-)

BG: Ha! I guess the military school dare worked out after all!

You know we buccaneers love a good dare! Would you be interested in giving our readers a dare?

JNH: Of course! I dare your readers to snap a picture of themselves doing something that scares them!

BG: Awesome dare!!! I can't wait to see photographic evidence of this. :D 

JNH: Thanks again for letting me stop and visit--I'd love to see some of the dare pics!


Joy has some RITES OF PASSAGE swag up for grabs. One lucky reader will win a postcard, sticker, bookmark and - best part! - a dogtag! Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. 

Are you up for Joy's dare? Take a photo and be sure to share it with us on Twitter - just use the #RitesOfPassageDare hashtag. If you have enough characters, mention @YABuccaneers to help us find your tweet. The giveaway ends September 30th at 12:00 am. Good luck!

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I can't wait to see your pics!