Sophomore Spotlight: Jennifer Salvato Dokstorski

I'm so excited to welcome Jennifer Salvato Doktorski to the blog as part of Sophomore Spotlight! So without further ado, here's some info and an interview about her sophomore novel, Famous Last Words!

Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski.

Published July 2, 2013
by Henry Holt.

Goodreads Blurb:
Sixteen-year-old Samantha D’Angelo has death on the brain. Her summer internship at the local newspaper has her writing obituaries instead of soaking up the sun at the beach. Between Shelby, Sam’s boy-crazy best friend; her boss Harry, a true-blue newspaper man; and AJ, her fellow “intern scum” (aka the cute drummer for a band called Love Gas), Sam has her hands full. But once she figures out what—or who—is the best part of her summer, will she mess it all up?

As Sam learns her way around both the news room and the real world, she starts to make some momentous realizations about politics, ethics, her family, romance, and most important—herself.

Welcome, Jen! I'm so happy to have you here for Sophomore Spotlight!
To start us off, describe your sophomore novel in 5 words or less.
J: Teen obit writer starts living.

Where did the idea for it come from?

J: My first paid writing gig was as an editorial assistant at a newspaper in New Jersey. In addition to answering phones and going on coffee runs, I wrote obituaries for eight months. If we didn’t have enough obituaries to fill the page, we’d have to write a feature obit with a photo to fill the space. This required calling the family of the recently deceased, which wasn’t always easy. But I learned a lot about people, and life, writing those feature obits.

Sounds like an interesting experience, at least! And definitely great story fodder. I loved seeing the experience of working at a newspaper come alive in the book. 

Is there any crossover between this novel and your debut? Was there anything from HOW MY SUMMER WENT UP IN FLAMES that influenced your writing of FAMOUS LAST WORDS?
J: There’s no crossover per se, but there are some commonalities. Both main characters, Rosie and Sam, hail from the same fictitious town in northern New Jersey and are proud of their home state. Both come from families of Italian descent. In Rosie’s case, only one side of the family is Italian, the other is Ecuadorian. The stories both take place the summer before the girls’ senior year in high school, and both Rosie and Sam have close, loving relationships with their parents. The similarities probably end there, though. Rosie and Sam are very different characters with totally different stories. I can’t say that one novel influenced the writing of the other, but after spending a lot of time with one character I wanted to make sure my next character had her own, unique voice.

Totally makes sense. After loving Sam the way I did reading FAMOUS LAST WORDS I'm even more convinced that I must meet Rosie soon! 
How did the journey for this book differ from that for your debut?
J: FAMOUS LAST WORDS is actually the first novel I wrote even though it’s my sophomore release. From start to finish it was definitely more of a learning experience. There were more rewrites of FAMOUS LAST WORDS than of HOW MY SUMMER WENT UP IN FLAMES. But FAMOUS LAST WORDS is the manuscript that landed me an agent (the wonderful Kerry Sparks) and it was also the first novel I sold. The editor who originally acquired the manuscript left for another publishing house shortly after my first rewrite was turned in. I was very fortunate that her boss, Christy Ottaviano, wanted to work on my book. The change in editors delayed the publishing date, so the process for this novel was definitely longer than that of HOW MY SUMMER WENT UP IN FLAMES, but the journey has been worth it. I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to spend the last eighteen months working with two amazing editors and at two incredible publishing houses.

Can you share a favourite quote from this book?
J: “…my own metamorphosis from ugly duckling to swan stalled out in the Cornish-game-hen stage.”

One of many lines in this one that made me chuckle! Sam has a great sense of humour, which I loved about her. 

Are you interested in ever trying to write a different genre from contemporary?
J: Yes. In fact, the novel I’m working on now may fall into a different genre. It’s still YA, though.

Ooh, interesting! I can't wait to hear more!

What is the best part of already having a book out in the world?
J: That people are reading it! People I don’t even know. That’s an amazing feeling. It has also given me the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people—YA bloggers, librarians, avid readers, fellow authors. I feel honored to have a place in the publishing world. I keep checking my local library because I want to take a picture of my book on the shelf, but both copies are always out, which is a good thing, I know.

Are there any other sophomore releases you've either loved or are looking forward to?

J: Good question and yes! I just got DEATH, DICKINSON, and THE DEMENTED LIFE OF FRENCHIE GARCIA by Jenny Torres Sanchez. I loved her first YA novel, THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE, and I can't wait to read this one.

Ah, that one is definitely on my to-read list! Even the title is 

What is one thing on your bucket list?
J: To sing back up in a band.

Can you share anything about your next project?

J: Well, I have ideas for sequels to both books, but right now I’m about halfway through a third manuscript that may be considered a slight departure from contemp. It is set in New Jersey, but in a different fictional town than the other two.

Exciting stuff! I can't wait to see what we get to read next from you! Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions!

Jennifer has kindly offered up a copy of FAMOUS LAST WORDS to a lucky winner! If the winner is located in the US or Canada, it'll be a signed copy with some swag. If the winner is international, it'll be an unsigned copy from The Book Depository. That's right, open internationally! Good luck!

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ This giveaway is open Internationally, provided The Book Depository ships free to your country (check here). As stated above, if the winner is located in the US or Canada, they will win a signed copy with some swag. If the winner is international, it'll be an unsigned copy from The Book Depository.
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ Winner will be chosen randomly and contacted via email. The winner has 48 hours to respond to my email, otherwise they forfeit their prize and I will choose another winner, who must abide by the same rules.
~ Neither Jen nor I are responsible for lost or damaged packages from TBD.
No cheating! In this case, I have the right to disqualify entries as I see fit.
~ By entering the giveaway, you are agreeing to these rules.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I've always been interested in the field of journalism, but I never had the backbone or tenacity to actually try it. It'd be great to read about what goes on behind the scenes of a newspaper. And I think the cover is cute!

    1. I've always been interested in that as well, but like you I've never had the guts to give it a shot. I don't think I'm cut out for it. But seeing the behind the scenes stuff was definitely very cool. And I totally agree about the cover :)

  2. Please enter me in your giveaway.
    It would be great to
    win a copy of Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski.
    In response to your question of
    Are you excited to read Famous Last Words? Why?
    To be honest i am not excited because until i saw this giveaway
    i didn't know this book existed.
    I enjoy reading and discovering new authors
    and I think my niece would also enjoy reading this.
    I enjoyed your interview with the author.
    Thank you for having this giveaway!!!!!!!

    1. Hopefully your niece would enjoy this one! Thank you and good luck!

  3. I loved How My Summer Went Up in Flames, so I can imagine I would love this as well. I like behind-the-scenes looks at just about any field, so it would be cool to see behind the scenes of a newspaper. Thanks so much for offering this giveaway!!

    1. I'm excited to read How My Summer Went Up in Flames after reading this one, so I hope going from one book to the other works well both ways! And I definitely loved the behind-the-scenes look at the paper. It was so interesting and so fun!

  4. I am DEFINITELY excited to read Famous Last Words! I love that the MC is learning things about the world while she's learning things about herself. It makes the story sound much more believable. In order for people to change/learn in real life, they usually have to be affected by something. Plus, who doesn't love internship love stories?! :)

    1. It was definitely an enjoyable AND realistic story with lots of fun elements, especially when it came to the summer job part. Plus Sam was a fantastic MC so I loved seeing her grow :)

  5. I thought How My Summer Went Up in Flames was a really fun read, so I'm definitely excited about Famous Last Words!

    1. Reading Famous Last Words has me even more excited to read HMSWUiF and I'm hearing that goes the opposite way as well, so I'm thinking fans of one will end up being fans of both!

  6. I can't wait to rea this book!!! It looks so good!! The concept of working for a newspaper is so unique and definitely sounds exciting!!! I loved the interview and how the publishing process went about. It's weird, for some reason, to think that this was actually written before Jow My Summer Went Up in Flames. Anyhow great interview and awesome giveaway! :)

    1. Yikes! Sorry for the typos. I forgot to read it over before I hit publish!!

    2. Haha that's okay!
      It really is such a good book. It was so fun getting to look behind the scenes at the newspaper :)


I'd love to hear what you think!